AC Newman The Slow Wonder

[Matador; 2004]

Styles: ’60s garage rock, ’70s power pop, ’80s college rock
Others: The New Pornographers, The dB’s, Big Star

It always didn't sit right with me when critics would characterize The New Pornographers as a "supergroup." When I think of a "supergroup," I'm thinking of Audioslave or that Temple of the Dog crap... big artists blindly coming together thinking they can pool their big names and create something huge. The New Pornographers' only big draw is the amazing Neko Case, everyone else in the band are just a bunch of Canadians with guitars, at least in my opinion.

This was until I heard Carl Newman's solo debut, The Slow Wonder. Taking on the AC Newman moniker, Carl has an uncanny ability to cull the best out of 50 years of pop music. The Kinks' tongue-in-cheek lyrics, the guitars, and power pop of Big Star, and the melodies of the dB's are all over The Slow Wonder's 11 tracks.

The album starts off incredibly strong with the New Pornographers-esque "Miracle Drug" and "On The Table." In the former, Carl's strong voice sings over a perfectly orchestrated series of guitars. His production abilities are on full display as lead guitars play over subtle organs and gently strummed acoustics in the background.

It's not until "Drink To Me Babe, Then" that Newman strays from his previous band and creates something truly special. A lazy summer anthem, the track features a raggedy drum beat over a slide guitar and melodica, the perfect accompaniment to Newman's lyrics about a relationship that is at the end of its rope.

Newman is a threat on many levels. An excellent lyricist, what separates him from the Fountains of Wayne's and other artists working within the power pop scene is his ability to create strong melodies and song structures. While some tracks such as "Secretarial" and "The Town Halo" miss the mark in terms of quality, overall, this is a strong collection. Taking chances within the realm of a three minute pop song takes sheer talent, and on The Slow Wonder, Carl Newman proves that he is one of the brightest songwriters working in music these days.

1. Miracle Drug
2. Drink To Me Babe, Then
3. On The Table
4. Most Of Us Prizefighters
5. The Battle for Straight Time
6. Secretarial
7. Come Crash
8. Better Than Most
9. The Cloud Prayer
10. The Town Halo
11. 35 In The Shade

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