The New Pornographers: “It’s Only Divine Right”
As I mentioned at least once before, many moons ago, I love the music of the indie “supergroup” The New Pornographers, and with a lineup including Neko Case, Carl Newman (formerly of Zumpano), and Dan Bejar (of Destroyer, although, admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of his voice), there’s a lot of talent going on in the group. But as I also mentioned in that past post, I just wish that they’d chosen a name that wouldn’t have relegated them to cult status. They seriously deserve greater recognition, but there are just too many people resistant to playing a band with a pornography-related name, and frankly, the name simply doesn’t suit the music. You certainly wouldn’t expect their style of music if you knew nothing else about the band.
But that’s really beside the point — what’s done is done, and I’m sure they had their reasons for picking the name. More importantly, they have recorded some of the best brainy pop of this millenium. And you can practically sense their high IQs at work when you listen to their music: the songs are clearly crafted, not simply composed. There’s a lot going on pretty much all the time, and even in the quieter moments (to inadvertently paraphrase Supertramp), you can tell that something crafty is on the way. But it rarely, if ever, feels pretentious — it’s usually just catchy as hell.
And so it is with “It’s Only Divine Right,” from their great (and arguably best) 2003 album, Electric Version, featuring Carl Newman’s great Britishly inflected (although he’s Canadian) vocals with Neko Case singing backup “aaaaahs.” It’s a full-steam-ahead type of song that charges forward, taking no prisoners along the way, with one of the most ominous-sounding simple piano riffs since Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It.” It’s supposedly about something George Bush-related, possibly about his daughters, but I wouldn’t have been able to figure that without looking it up. Once again, though, as with so many songs featuring excellent melody and musicianship, it doesn’t really matter what it means — Newman’s singing fits into the song like a row of vertebrae, forming the core for the instruments crashing around the outside.