|Studio album by The New Pornographers|
|Released||November 21, 2000|
|Genre||Indie rock, power pop|
|Producer||John Collins, David Carswell|
|The New Pornographers chronology|
|Singles from Mass Romantic|
Mass Romantic is the debut album by Canadian indie rock band The New Pornographers. Produced by David Carswell and band bassist John Collins, it was released on Mint Records in 2000. The album was three years in the making, with musicians A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar writing songs as early as 1998. With encouragement from peers, they recorded an album with other Canadian musicians from groups including The Evaporators, Zumpano, and Destroyer.
Released in 2000, the album failed to chart in Canada or the United States, but positive reviews from music media led to the group having a sold-out tour. Critical acclaim was very positive, and the album received a score of 87 from Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics.
Mass Romantic was recorded over the course of almost three years. The first four songs were finished in early 1998. The New Pornographers claimed that the songs "were just sitting around. Friends would hear the songs and go, 'This is really great,' and so it was kind of frustrating in a way. We'd go, 'Yeah, well, we're going to try to record a record.'" The group's producer and bassist John Collins decided to refer to themselves as a super group. The band consisted of Zumpano's Carl Newman, John Collins of Thee Evaporators, Dan Bejar of Destroyer, Limblifter's Kurt Dahle, filmmaker Blaine Thurier, and alternative country singer Neko Case.
Production on the album was difficult. A.C. Newman stated, "I remember 'Letter From an Occupant' was a pretty belabored song. It ended up being almost minimal, but I remember there's so much shit we put on it. There's a psychedelic 12-string guitar solo, a backwards guitar, there's a kind of really cool synth that's in there but buried. At some point, you have to choose. That was the hardest part about mixing the thing: just making that judgment call. I only feel at peace with the record now because people seem to like it."
Many of the songs on the album were written by A.C. Newman and Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar. Newman recalled that he thought "'How could we lose?' You could just take some interesting elements and put them together. Even taking myself out of the picture, when I looked at the band I just thought, 'This band's got to be great.' I thought, 'Okay, everyone can hate my songs, they can dismiss them.' But I have the most confidence in Dan's songs because I'm totally outside of him, looking in. I'm just a fan of him."
The song "Breakin' the Law" was taken from Destroyer's first album We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge. The group vocals at the end of "Breakin' the Law" are credited to the Camp Northstar Kids' Chorus, a reference to the Canadian comedy film Meatballs. The chorus is actually every member of the band singing. Newman stated, "I like the fact that people think that it's a kids' group...We made ourselves sound like a giant group, but we ended up sounding like little kids. I love the fact that in the Rolling Stone review they mention the chorus of kids. I just think it's great that people actually believe that, because it's such a fucking ridiculous thing for a band to do."
Tim DiGravina of Allmusic called Mass Romantic an album that "displays a decidedly power pop form of indie rock." Many critics compared the album's music to musicians of the past. DiGravina noted comparison per individual song with "the Beatles ('The Mary Martin Show') to David Bowie ('The Slow Descent into Alcoholism') to T.Rex ('Mystery Hours') to Todd Rundgren ('The Fake Headlines')." Jim Caliguiry of The Austin Chronicle noted, "They borrow from Cheap Trick, the Beach Boys, Big Star, Roxy Music, Buzzcocks, and Robyn Hitchcock". Rolling Stone also made comparisons to Big Star and Cheap Trick.
The album's lyrics have been described as "ridiculous and melodramatic as they are witty".
Mass Romantic was released originally on November 21, 2000 by Mint Records on vinyl and compact disc in Canada. It received an official United States release when it was released in a remastered form by Matador Records on October 7, 2003. "Letter from an Occupant", released on April 15, 2002, was the only single.
The New Pornographers went on their first tour to promote the album. The tour presented problems, including throat damage, broken-down buses, and having to take expensive cab rides. A.C. Newman spoke positively about the tour, stating, "There's been fairly good crowds, but the shows haven't been that crazy. They've been getting better... We're not really a party band. I hope people can party. We give them the music! Isn't that enough?" The tour sold out.
Mass Romantic was well received in Canada, where it won a Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year. The album received generally favorable reviews on its initial release. Allmusic awarded the album four and a half stars out of five, describing the album as one "that reveals its charms through repeat listens, and makes a listener wonder how the band can master so many different musical styles via so many vocalists while still maintaining a fiercely cohesive sound." Entertainment Weekly gave them album an A rating, proclaiming it "An insanely contagious concoction of new wave, Cheap Trick, and garage-glam pandemonium, Romantic is a perfect pop album." PopMatters also spoke positively of the album, stating that the New Pornographers "have made such a great album, tuneful, overdosed with hooks, that all the past sins of our Northern neighbors are forgiven. Well, maybe not Rush, but close."
The Alternative Press gave the album a rating of four out of five, referring to it as a "masterful reproduction of underground power pop ca. 1979, complete with cheesy synths and slashing guitar leads". The Austin Chronicle awarded the album three and a half stars out of five stating "Mass Romantic is the type of album nobody makes anymore. It's an intricate and brightly colored gem, filled with sing-along melodies and sounds that shouldn't work together yet do." Rolling Stone gave the album three and a half stars out of five, stating "they've made a striking power-pop album, forty staggeringly catchy minutes of four-part harmonies and Wall of Sound production, exploding with energy and joy". In the United Kingdom, the album received slightly more mixed reviews, with a four out of five star rating from Uncut, but more average three out of five ratings from Q and the NME. The most negative review came from Stylus Magazine, giving the album a D+ rating, stating that "Too many misdirected ideas weigh this album down".
The album charted in several best of the year lists from various critics. Pitchfork Media rated it the ninth best album of 2001, stating, "Energetic, smooth, and masterfully executed, Mass Romantic is the catchiest thing to come out in ages." The site later placed Mass Romantic at number 91 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s. Magnet magazine included the album in its "20 Best Albums of 2001" list. In Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critic's poll of 2001, the album placed at number seventeen. In December 2007, Blender listed Mass Romantic as the 24th best indie rock album of all time. It is the second-highest Canadian album on the list behind Arcade Fire's Funeral, which was selected as the 6th best.
All songs written by A.C. Newman except where noted.
- "Mass Romantic" (Neko Case and Newman) – 4:11
- "The Fake Headlines" (vocals: Newman) – 2:45
- "The Slow Descent into Alcoholism" (vocals: Newman) – 3:56
- "Mystery Hours" (vocals: Newman) – 3:11
- "Jackie" (Dan Bejar and Neko Case) – 2:46
- "Letter from an Occupant" (vocals: Neko Case, Newman) – 3:46
- "To Wild Homes" (Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar) – 3:33
- "The Body Says No" (vocals: Newman)– 3:56
- "Execution Day" (Dan Bejar and Newman) – 2:59
- "Centre for Holy Wars" (vocals: Newman) – 3:06
- "The Mary Martin Show" (vocals: Newman)– 3:19
- "Breakin' the Law" (Newman and Dan Bejar) – 3:27
- "The End of Medicine" (Japanese release)
- "When I Was a Baby" (Japanese release)
- Bill Anderson – photography
- Daniel Bejar – vocals, multi-instruments, korg synthesizer, pipe organ, wurlitzer
- David Carswell – producer
- Neko Case – vocals
- John Collins – bass, producer, engineer
- Kurt Dahle – drums, vocals
- Carl Newman – vocals, korg synthesizer, pipe organ, wurlitzer
- Shannon Oksanen – photography
- Fisher Rose – drums
- Blaine Thurier – keyboards
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- "The 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever — #30 to #21 Article on Blender :: The Ultimate Guide to Music and More". Blender. 2007-11-27. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
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- Juzwiak, Richard M. (2001-03-31). "Pitchfork: The New Pornographers: Mass Romantic". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Caligiuri, Tim. "Record Reviews: Mass Romantic". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Wolk, Douglas (2001-05-02). "Record Reviews: Mass Romantic". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
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- Morgan, Laura (2001-02-23). "Mass Romantic: Music Review: Entertainment Weekly". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- NME: 30. March 2002. "6 out of 10 - "...synths trade coy smooches, guitars wobble like sun-stroked XTC fans and harmonies soar like...balloons...""
- Mann, James. "The New Pornographers: Mass Romantic, Popmatters Review". PopMatters. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Spin: 156–58. April 2001. "8 out of 10 - "...Brains-across-the-dashboard power pop....A group experiment gone right - rock where the beat and the ideas come faster than you'd expect...""
- "The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic - Review - Stylus Magazine". Stylus Magazine. 2003-11-27. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Uncut: 90. February 2001. "4 stars out of 5 - "....A ferocious blend of riotous fun and epiphany perched on the edge of despair...""
- "2001 Juno Awards (Best Alternative Album)". Juno-awards.ca. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
- Alternative Press: 80. March 2001. "4 out of 5 - "...A masterful reproduction of underground power pop ca. 1979, complete with cheesy synths and slashing guitar leads...""
- Q: 119. April 2002. "4 stars out of 5 - "....A ferocious blend of riotous fun and epiphany perched on the edge of despair...""
- LeMay, Matt (2002-01-01). "Pitchfork: Top 20 Albums of 2001". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Pitchfork staff (September 30, 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100-51". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
- Magnet: 57. December–January 2002.
- Christgau, Robert (2002-02-12). "Robert Christgau: Pazz & Jop 2001:Critics Poll". Village Voice. Retrieved 2009-04-16.