A is a definite article, a method of distinguishing an individual from
a group, singling out the one particular subject that deserves all the
attention. I don't know the true origins of that particular A, the
above definition would certainly make Carl Newman's self-amended
designation quite the aptonym. The Slow Wonder
is an A, a defining article that raises Carl Newman from the crowded
house he built for the New Pornographers to his very own center stage.
Newman is out this time with a collection of even newer rock and roll
pornographers who are every bit as dig-deep tenacious and blissfully
sonorous. The Slow Wonder is a further refinement of the ideas swirled across Mass Romantic and honed on The Electric Version.
Newman has emerged from behind the curtain with a slab of pop
perfection, matching the heights of those previous records while
showcasing a more personal stake in the music, as opposed to the
communal conceptualism of the Pornographer records. "The Miracle Drug"
is an assuring opener, almost alarmingly familiar with vocalist Sarah
Wheeler backing up to fill in the Neko Case role (with such quality as
to arouse curiosity as to what she might sound like out in front). The
sonic similarities only serve to demonstrate Newman's persisting talent
in knowing what makes a great song and the ability to do so freshly, at
will. The melodious "On The Table" politely drips across the piano
keyboard with a dignified reserve before soaring into a kaleidoscopic
rush of unbridled enthusiasm in the chorus. Amidst the crowd pleasers
is "Come Crash," a gorgeous ballad that slowly probes the inner
workings of an obscure relationship. While never revealing too much in
direct statements, the song instead pieces the story together through
the shadows cast by the firework bursting bridge and shards of
conversation that slowly flicker and fade. It is a wonderful
centerpiece to the album, and a more introspective side of Newman than
most of us have been treated to. "The Town Halo" rockets the album sky
high once again, thickly rooted in a repeating loop of strings, surging
forward in a thrust of accusatory questioning and boundary marking.
Along with the closer, "35 In The Shade," the song surrounds Newman
with a throng of background singers, lending their collective voices to
the music he has crafted. This aspect of the album seems perfectly
natural, as it is hard to resist joining in. Newman is a songwriter of
the highest caliber, one who is capable of implanting a song deep
within the psyche and coaxing it back out once again through the voices
of listeners. The Slow Wonder outputs nothing but unabashed joy through song and demands nothing less back.