Few people in rock today possess the uncanny pop sensibilities that Carl Newman has. Whether within the confines of indie’s answer to Fleetwood Mac, The New Pornographers, or on his own, Newman has the ability to create awkwardly irresistible songs. While I liked his previous album, Get Guilty, a great deal, it really did feel like a New Pornographers record minus Neko Case, Dan Bejar, and the other who-knows-how-many members. Nothing wrong with that as there were some real gems on that album. Three years later, Newman takes a wide left turn with Shut Down The Streets. Those looking for The New Pornos may not find a lot to like.
The mood is largely mellow and occasionally somber on the album. There’s also a decidedly seventies vibe on several tracks, complete with woodwinds. “I’m Not Talking” starts things off in celestial fashion. It sets the tone that this is not what you would expect. It is an extremely compelling, touching tune. The next two tracks are well arranged, if not wholly accessible. Case does lend her vocals to the chorus of “Encyclopedia Of Classic Takedowns” and it definitely takes the song up a notch. She also appears on another standout track, “Wasted English”. The rest of the songs serve the album well but don’t arouse the ears like the ones mentioned. When you start off with a truly astounding piece, you grab the listener but some modicum of momentum must be maintained. And while the album is not bad, it certainly doesn’t hold the listener’s attention.