The New Pornographers put nerves about Trump into song
Posted April 7
NEW YORK — The New Pornographers leader A.C. Newman put his nerves about a Donald Trump presidency into a song.
"High Ticket Attractions" has received plenty of rock radio airplay as lead track of the new "Whiteout Conditions" album out Friday. The jittery tunefulness that is the band's signature sound fits the mood of the song and the times.
Newman wrote it before the election, as people were absorbed in the choice before them.
"It's the same mindset a lot of people have been in," Newman said. "All of a sudden this consumes you. You worry about the world — the threat of Trump, the reality of Trump, what he represents. It's hard to escape, and on the song 'High Ticket Attractions," I wasn't even trying."
The Age of Trump may have personal ramifications for Newman. The 38-year-old Canadian native lives now with his wife and son in upstate New York, but worries that health care costs may eventually send him back north.
He's the ringleader for a collective that pictures seven members on the new disc's cover. Except for Newman, it's a side gig for most members. Singer Neko Case has a thriving solo career, bassist Blaine Turner is an indie filmmaker, several play in other bands. Newman writes most of the songs — all of them on "Whiteout Conditions" — and builds arrangements chiefly through mailed-in contributions. They're rarely all together except for live gigs.
One of the more interesting new songs, "We've Been Here Before," actually subverts that process. Newman constructed a dense arrangement with guitars, synthesizers and other electronics, then chose to strip most of it away to focus on the voices.
The catchphrase Newman offers to describe the band's new work is "bubblegum Krautrock." He was interested in exploring the more mechanized sounds associated with German rock. Bubblegum, he explains, is because that's often what people think of with his keen ear for melody.
Seventeen years in, The New Pornographers are one of an increased rarity in the business: a rock band able to sustain a career.
"So many things in life that once seemed like a dream come true, now just seems like something you do," he said. "'Oh, I've done that. Yeah, I've been on Letterman five times.' Or getting your record reviewed in Rolling Stone or Spin — it blew my mind when it first happened. It's like that Joni Mitchell line: 'Your dreams lose some grandeur coming true.'
"All of a sudden, I'm in this life and you have to remind yourself to be very grateful for it," he said.