Get Guilty, the second solo effort from New Pornographers ringmaster A.C. Newman, is nice. I would like to say more than that, but on repeated listening, the only word that surfaces is “nice.”
It can be said that the inherent niceness is a stylistic departure, something to separate this from his New Pornos power pop, yet his first solo effort, The Slow Wonder, occasionally broke up that lingering idyll with some uptempo pop-rockers. On Get Guilty, the predominant mood is that slightly soft, slightly retro sound that the UK band the Clientele have been working through over the last couple releases.Á‚ I’d suspect that without the spectre of his “day job,” my opinion would be radically different and I’d be jumping up and down about the album.
There are close comparisons to make nonetheless. Newman’s rather unique wordplay is still evident, as is the female vocal doubling, this time provided by Nicole Atkins and Kori Gardner Hammel from Mates of State. However, there isn’t really a proper 4/4 mover until track seven, “The Palace At 4 AM,” or a full-on bit of crunch until track 11, “The Collected Works.” The album closer, “All Of My Days And All Of My Days Off,” is as close to the New Pornographers as you’re getting, yet it lacks that strange Brady Kids on Beer Bong and Cynicism rambunctiousness we’ve come to love from the group.
Then you remove the baggage and listen to the album on it’s own merits and, suddenly, you feel like you’re listening to a well-crafted pop record from 1967 or 1968, and therein lies the problem with Get Guilty. It’s a fine listen, but there’s such a warm familiarity to it that it can’t really break out; its hooks don’t grab you as confidently as they could. The end result is that you hold no negative thoughts about these songs but you don’t gravitate to them either — at least not right away.
I recommend the album to Newman’s fans, as well as to fans of that late ’60s pop ethic, but with a big caveat: don’t go in with expectations of it being a nephew to Electric Version or Twin Cinema, because it isn’t. It’s nice. Make of that what you will.