Friday, November 21, 2008

I Know What Worried Me Last Summer: AC Newman

I was worried about AC Newman last summer, when the ginger-headed New Pornographer updated his Facebook status with heartfelt commentary on VH1 realitard show, I Love Money on the daily.

The show mashes up the day-drunk dollies from Rock of Love with Bret Fucking Michaels, Flavor of Love and I Love New York to compete for a million dollars (and the opportunity to eke out a couple more pop culture radar blips so they can still get those lucrative hosting gigs at dance clubs in Clearwater, FL).

I admit I caught an episode or seven of I <3 $$$. J’adore Rock of Love. Fucking sue me. I knew shit was dumb, but I couldn’t sense even a hiccup of irony in Newman’s devotion to Hoopz.

Watching I Love Money is an exercise in brain cell depletion, and it concerned me greatly one of my fave pop songwriters was so taken with it. Would his work suffer too, resulting in some sort of sad Flowers for Algernon kinda thing? Instead of "Sing Me Spanish Techno" would the New Pornographers rollick through songs called "Titties and Cash"?

I had to find out. Newman was at the Bell House Saturday night to debut his forthcoming solo record, Get Guilty (Matador). Tucked away in industrial Gowanus, Brooklyn, the Bell House is what Twin Peaks’ Great Northern hotel ballroom might have looked like if Ben Horne had been an indie rocker: red velvet curtains, latticed oak, high ceilings, giant brass chandeliers.

After escaping the rain I waited in line directly behind Eugene Mirman (always just one degree away from Jermain Clement, sigh). I caught the tail-end of openers the Birds of Youth and sipped a vodka soda. After a lull with sounds of the ’70s playing over the house (Fleetwood Mac, Heart) the Oranges Band played. I saw the Baltimore band years ago in Lawrence, KS, and their music recalls a time when indie rock was just some unassuming, hirsute dudes playing scraggly guitar rock for gas money. Sometimes the bro-show jamming was a little boring. Wholly delightful was the appearance by Oranges’ frontman Roman Kuebler’s dad, who is also their merch guy. Pops called them a “seminal Maryland band,” and urged the enchanted crowd to buy some gear.

Newman went solo for the first time in 2004, releasing Slow Wonder, whose track On the Table ended up on The OC Mix 4. For a guy gone solo, he sure brings a lot of folks with him. Utility players alternated between accordion, horn and keyboard while Newman shared vocals with two adorable girls playing typical cute instrument: tambourines, violins and recorders. I hadn’t seen a recorder since 3rd grade music class with Sr. Sheila.

Like New Porno songs, Newman’s were spun sugar pop stompers, drizzled with boy-girl call-and-response vocals and sprinkled with yeah-yeahs and la-las. Newman repeatedly prefaced songs with, “this is probably inspired from some French film,” but I know homeboy gets all his rhymes from VH1 programming.

While Neko Case has her country twang, and the lupine Dan Bejar is off in Destroyer and all his other solo projects, Newman sticks to what he knows. I’m totally fine with that.

-Megan Metzger


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