Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The New Pornographers: Mass Romantic [Mint, 2000]
Even understood to indicate "rock" played by commercially theoretical alt-indie guitar bands, "pop" has become a term so elastic it assures only the desire to be tuneful or at least songful. There are wimp pop bands and punk pop bands, bedroom pop bands and studio pop bands, sour pop bands and sugary pop bands, metallic pop bands and folkish pop bands, pop bands that gleam like platinum and pop bands that mulch like autumn leaves. Even the boring ones, which doesn't just mean the tuneless ones, can claim their own "sound." But this Vancouver "supergroup" (Zumpano fans are reeling) have content, personality, and attitude (and tunes). Without powering into the radio-ready amplitude of, oh, Tsar, they have a grand old time faking artificiality: "Telstar" organ and "Carrie-Anne" falsettos, glam Briticisms and Neil Diamond chords, Katrina Leskanich tributes and faux fops tossing off lyrics like "Heavens to Betsy/Come on let's see/What could be worse than/The wheel of history?" All brought off with switched-on brio, sardonic multireferentiality, and jubilant momentum. Get inside that sound and it's a blast. A-