After two sets of fizzy hooks and classic pop homages (three sets if you count leader A.C. Newman's solo album), you might expect the New Pornographers to get really ambitious and shoot for an epic. Instead, they've come up with . . . another collection of fizzy hooks and classic pop homages. Nothing necessarily wrong with that - and it's hard to argue with songs as well crafted and infectiously upbeat as most of those on Twin Cinema. There are danger signs, however. Newman's more cute, show-tune side turns up a bit too often, and the trademark quotes get a little obvious. Yes, there's more of Neko Case this time around, and she pulls off a wicked Kim Deal impression on the already Pixies-ish "The Bones of an Idol." But ultimately, the album spotlights the band's softer, acoustic side. And that's disappointing, because the songs that do push the envelope - either by getting tougher (the title track) or weirder (the Eastern-droning "The Bleeding Heart Show") - are the ones that truly stand out.
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