w/the Honorary Title, the Neins
Tues July 6, Neumo's, 9:30 pm, $10.
Take a listen to any of Carl Newman's bands; from the defunct Zumpano to the New Pornographers to his new solo act, A. C. Newman, there is no question that he runs the show creatively, no matter how many musicians and singers accompany him.
Zumpano's final album, Goin' Through Changes, is a criminally unheard classic pop album, and the New Pornographers, with Newman and Neko Case singing side by side, have been given their fair and highly deserved acclaim from both critics and lovers of eclectic pop. Both of the New Pornographers' records, Mass Romantic and Electric Version, are exuberantly packed with the kind of songwriting that only a person with a great love and knowledge of '60s Brit pop, California's sun-inspired music, Burt Bacharach, and the gift to use them to inform his own compositions, could have created.
Newman makes no bones that he does, in fact, run the show. "I write 80 percent of the New Pornographers' songs," he says, "and then [other band members] would write some of their own, but I just offensively take those apart and screw around with them just to make them New Pornographers songs." He feels he's reaching the place he wants to go with his music, and says, "I think the records, through the years, have become closer and closer to what it is I want to do. Zumpano was a lot more of a collaborative effort, which ultimately, I wasn't that much into. But New Pornographers is the band I took charge of." At least his bandmates are okay with it. "I didn't say it outright because it was kind of an unspoken thing in the band that this was basically my thing," he asserts. With a slightly detectable air of pride, Newman says of The Slow Wonder, "Of course with my solo record, I removed the concept of any band whatsoever and did it all myself."
The solo album came to fruition right after Newman finished recording Electric Version. "I started writing and listening to demos and reading my notebooks, and I just began working on a load of songs that I didn't really see working for New Pornographers. But I still really wanted to do them, so I wrote [the titles] down and I had a whole page and I thought I might as well make a new record. It was kind of an experiment."
He owes it all to Canada's support of local artists. "I ended up getting a grant, so I started to work. But all that's actually coming to an end soon," he explains. "The foundation that is giving me the money, it's kind of a private foundation but there's a lot of government money that goes into it. It might be crushed by next year because I think the government is pulling the money out of it or taking a huge chunk of it. It sucks and I'm trying to get in there and get as much as possible. They helped me out immensely, they paid for the new album--although I did put some of my own money into it--and even gave me a marketing and promotions grant."
Newman says Canada supports its arts because of the United States. Basically, Canada wants its own culture. "I think if not for economic reasons, it makes so much sense that we would watch American TV and read American books and magazines, and watch American movies," he admits, "so I think there's a conscious effort to try to make things that are Canadian or there won't be anything good. If there weren't the 30 percent Canadian content regulations as in radio and TV, I doubt there'd be any Canadian output."
In terms of music, Newman thinks the regulations are the key to success. "There are bands that owe their careers, their lives, to those Canadian content regulations. There are a lot of bands you have never heard in America that are really popular here because of the content law."
Always a funny guy ready to crack a joke, he finishes this lesson with some mock pride: "We've created some of the greats, like Nickelback, Crash Test Dummies, and Barenaked Ladies."