Under Review

A.C. Newman

Get Guilty (Last Gang Records)

Review By Aaron Goldsman


“It was a straight shot, but lady would you call it art?” sings Carl Newman on “The Palace at 4 AM,” one of the better tracks off his new LP, Get Guilty. This question sums up the thematic drive of the album: whether or not pop music, played by the book, can still have something to offer its listener. In Newman’s case, it seems like it can. Although the record could be accused of being unimaginative—simply a rehearsal of the pop conventions that have shaped Newman’s song-writing on his earlier efforts with Zumpano, the New Pornographers and his solo career—this criticism is somewhat off the mark. The record is not necessarily about innovation, pushing boundaries or shocking its audience, but rather its success lies in its careful and skilled execution. As is typical of Newman’s work, the songs are loaded with satisfying details, sharp little hooks and flourishes that manage to keep the songs interesting while not obscuring the bigger picture of Newman’s anthemic power-pop sensibility. There may not be many fresh ideas here, but Newman’s style breathes new life into chugging 4/4 guitar rhythms, which is an achievement in itself. As the man says on the record’s first track, “There are maybe 10 or 12 things I can teach you… make of that what you will.” Newman doesn’t pretend to do anything more than make good pop, and this he does well.