Stripped down 

The New Pornographers

click to enlarge If you think the New Pornographers look crowded here, you should see them in their Volkswagen Beetle. Its, like, right out of a Manitou Art Theater show.
  • If you think the New Pornographers look crowded here, you should see them in their Volkswagen Beetle. Its, like, right out of a Manitou Art Theater show.

A little less sugar and a little more protein.

That was essentially the approach to Challengers, the new CD from the New Pornographers. And the shift toward a more understated but more substantial rock-pop sound is creating some sharp and varied reactions.

"It seems like there are the people who just don't think it's upbeat enough or whatever," says singer-guitarist A.C. "Carl" Newman. "And then there are the people who are like, "I've never been convinced by them before completely, but this record really makes me like them.' That's about exactly what I expected.

"That's the thing when you change as a band. You know you're going to lose some people along the way."

The ironic thing about the debate over Challengers, which was released in August, is that Newman wouldn't have predicted the New Pornographers would have lasted long enough to gain and lose fans in the first place.

The band includes two notable members Dan Bejar of the band Destroyer and singer-songwriter Neko Case whose own careers were just beginning to take wing as Challengers was being planned.

"When we first talked to Mint Records, who put out our records in Canada, they said, "So, are you guys going to put out another record?' I honestly sat there and went, "I don't know,'" Newman says. "They said, "Are you guys going to tour this record?' "I don't know.'"

But, now with Challengers finished, Newman says the New Pornographers have only become more ambitious.

"The mission just changes when you don't want to repeat yourself," he says. "With anything, being a writer or anything, you just want to stretch out and do something you haven't done before."

The result is another strong effort from the group, which also includes Todd Fancey (guitar), John Collins (bass, guitar), Blaine Thurier (Fender Rhodes electric piano), Kurt Dahle (drums) and Kathryn Calder (vocals, keyboards).

Newman says the new songs fit nicely alongside the band's earlier material in the current live show.

The biggest news for the tour, though, involves the band more than the songs. Because of their own careers, Case and Bejar have only occasionally toured with the New Pornographers. But for this tour, Newman says, both have committed to participating throughout.

"I never know if that's ever going to happen again," Newman says. "I remember in 2005 when we did [our] tour and Dan and Neko were with us, I felt kind of wistful, like, "Is this the last time we're ever going to play like this?'

"It's always been the nature of our band that we never really knew what was going to go on. We knew we were going to keep making records, but we never knew anything else."


New Pornographers with Immaculate Machine and Emma Pollack

Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood

Monday, Nov. 5, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $20, 16-plus; visit ticketmaster.com.


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