A.C. Newman has the least interesting solo career between the three main songwriters from The New Pornographers. It shouldn’t be surprising: he exhausts the most material for the New Pornographers and he doesn’t use his solo career to explore other avenues of music (ie. Neko Case’s alt-country or Destroyer’s art pop), which means his solo albums sound like dressed up songs that weren’t good enough to make it on proper New Pornographers albums. Especially true when someone who sounds exactly like Case (Sarah Wheeler) shows up for harmony duty on “On the Table.” It doesn’t help that his power pop has always sounded anemic, either because of the lack of a good rhythm section (ie. the lifeless drum programming – it has to be a program, right? – of “Most of Us Prizefighters”) or because of the awkward phrasing of vocal melodies (“Drink to Me, Babe, Then”; “On the Table”); he has no idea what to do after the first minute of “The Battle for Straight Time” so he chooses to repeat it for another three minutes (and again on “Come Crash”). “Miracle Drug” has the album’s best hook, no matter how slight it is; “The Town Halo” (thanks to its bombastic cello) and “35 in the Shade” are surprisingly dense.
Here’s The Village Voice‘s Anthony Miccio to close, which mentions (1) the crowd who would eat this sort of thing up (8.8!); and (2) Game Theory, an underrated power pop band that deserves more mention: “…Calling Newman’s forefathers superior is a moot point, too; ’60s classics and off-kilter ’80s cult dweebs like the dB’s and Game Theory would probably be too distracting for hardworking grad students, what with their energetic arrangements and refusal to fade into the background.”