Carl Newman is better known as the main man behind four albums by Vancouver supergroup the New Pornographers, but he has also released two solo albums as A.C. Newman. The first, his excellent release The Slow Wonder, came out in 2004 and immediately put to rest any questions about who was the indispensable member of Newman’s other band. It had the unforgettable hooks and beautiful vocal harmonies of the New Pornographers but used them in sparser arrangements and slower tempos. Overall, it set a more contemplative mood — even if the surrealistic lyrics meant you couldn’t really tell what Newman was contemplating.
That mood carried over into the next two New Pornographers albums, Twin Cinema and Challengers, which all but abandoned the chugging, upbeat rhythm that had been one of the band’s trademarks. They’re both good albums, but their pleasures don’t reveal themselves as quickly and easily as did Mass Romantic and Electric Version.
With his new Get Guilty, Newman doesn’t make things any easier for us, with one exception: he includes a lyric sheet. For the first time, those of us who buy the CD (instead of downloading it) can puzzle over the meaning of Newman lines such as “Few have the luxury of B-sides, no, but I do. I’ve got buckets full.”
Are we supposed to take that to mean we’re listening to his second-rate songs, or does he mean to say that the New Pornographers are now getting his castoffs? Probably neither, but who knows? The most remarkable thing about such a line is that words that look so plain on the page can sound so stirring in the middle of his song.
A.C. NEWMAN, The Casbah, Wednesday, February 25, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12.