As leader of the New Pornographers, Carl Newman has lorded it over an indie-pop dynamo through four well-received albums, all while subtly transforming the group from a collaborative lark into a tightly run vehicle for his own career. Which makes it odd that, despite having near-complete authority over the Pornographers' output, he's still determined to succeed as a solo act.
Get Guilty is the follow-up to 2004's delightful The Slow Wonder, but whereas that album added shading and nuance to Newman's Pornographers persona, this new one reveals how little contrast there is now between the man and the band. Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt, and Get Guilty sounds very, very familiar.
Too many of the songs rely on a stilted, march-like rhythm that makes them sound formal and restrained, especially when paired with Newman's arch lyrical delivery. His vocals mimic melodic climbs and patterns from previous records, creating a feeling of déjà vu. The abysmal "Submarines of Stockholm" might be the worst example of his Mad Libs approach to songwriting; the sleepy waltz of "Young Atlantis" is a ponderous bore. Newman's excitable early work made you want to jump up and gesticulate wildly; Get Guilty is the stuff of awkward middle-school slow dances.