Challengers is the fourth album from decade-old popsters The New Pornographers, a countless stable of artists from a country where I was denied entry by a Nazi border agent who sported a porno stash of his own, Vancouver British Columbia. The wrangling of such a diverse cast of craft assassins consisting of acclaimed soloists, album producers, and independent filmmakers, seems like a task more difficult than the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Matador has been the American sanctuary for these modern day Beach Boys, and girls, under orders from the red-headed captain of this spiffy ship Carl Newman, who superlatively organizes the kind of rubicund boom that our parents would have listened to on black and white radios blaring from open passenger doors of their '57 Chevy's, only way more hip.
"Challengers" is a plush orchestral ripple of female harmonies and promising melodies that make a mind wonder why there isn't more beauty like this in the world. If "Myriad Harbour" doesn't make your toes tap, then toes you do not have, for this is a proven toe tapper! Heavens knows the cheeky stir of joke vocals like "ah who cares you always end up in the city" add alacrity to this sassy little hopper. "Go Places" is a breath-snatching wrench of soft keys and gentle strings heightened to unsurpassable felicity by Neko Case's heavenly cry.
"Mutiny, I Promise You" sparks like nostalgic fires furiously lit on the band's initial infernos, but the flames ignited here put up quite a fight before peacefully smoking themselves to death. The aging Canucks have chosen to let their blusterous gusts swirl like a friendly hurricane rather than devastate the mainland with immediate carnage.
Youth is no longer with the Pornos, I'm afraid, and their elderly (I think that one dude is 40) approach here is a daunting sputter which led to the creation of a sapient album void of any immediacy. This isn't a zippy batter of groundbreaking sound found on Challengers, a dilemma which might arise when all in the family are busy loving their other children, but it narrowly escapes a fate equal to that of the NASA spaceship bearing the same unlucky name.