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A.C. Newman: The Slow Wonder

A.C. Newman: The Slow Wonder

Genre:Power pop

By Bret McCabe | Posted 8/18/2004

A.C. Newman is better known as Carl Newman, the red-headed guitarist/vocalist behind the New Pornographers’ muscular blasts, those perfectly pitched gems the likes of which Cheap Trick, Big Star, et al. no longer pen. (Note to Matador: Please make Newman and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan record that last great Kinks album that Ray and Dave Davies refuse to do.) For his The Slow Wonder solo debut, Newman eases back on the Pornographers’ propulsive thrust and shows off a moodier side, but even at lower revs Newman’s pop engine gets almost as much mileage out of the well-constructed hook and surprising tempo shift as the Neptunes.

Quizzically, what makes Newman’s songs so infectious is the elliptical, almost irrational logic of his curveball lyrics: Just when a line feels like it’s rhymed merely to maintain meter, Newman memorably twists everything topsy-turvy. “Most of Us Prizefighters” opens with “Show what you’re worth/ Dinner is served/ Open your eyes/ Most of us prize/ Fighters will fall for fashion,” splitting a titular word for effect and making utter nonsense so cryptically nonsensical that it lodges itself in the brain.

It’s a trick Newman pulls off with a giddy ease, finding a rocking power-pop soul in the string-section melody of “The Town Halo” and turns the one-word chorus of “Secretarial” into a summery sing-along. Wonder won’t dazzle sneers too cool for pop, but fans of the shameless T-top jam won’t mind it one bit.

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