As consistently great as The New Pornographers have been, they’ve always walked on a little bit of a tightrope. The collection of western Canadian alt-stars including A.C. Newman (QRO solo album review), Dan Bejar (a.k.a. Destroyer – QRO solo album review), and Neko Case (QRO solo live review) long ran the risk of too many cooks in the kitchen, or losing key ingredients. Their power-pop is instantly accessible and fun, but the style can also run thin. Unfortunately, the downsides catch up a bit with the group on their good, but not great, new record, Whiteout Conditions.
First things first: Whiteout is the first New Pornographers album not to feature Bejar. According to reports, he has not left the band, just rather that his own Destroyer work conflicted with the making of Whiteout. The group has long been fronted by Newman, with Case equally as notable, but Bejar has been key to the secret sauce. Without him, the entirely Newman-penned Whiteout comes off as not as memorable, despite the good share of vocals from Case. Single “High Ticket Attractions” and the following “This Is the World of the Theater” stand out, but not enough of the rest of the record does, including some meandering pieces.
All of this isn’t to say that Whiteout Conditions is a bad record, or that New Pornographer fans won’t enjoy it. It is definitely a good record, just not another great record from a band that had delivered great albums again & again.