Preconceptions can sometimes be like your own personal spin-doctor at a political. You go in with an already formed opinion and then find the evidence to prove yourself correct.
With five albums now to their name and more than the RBA (Recommended Band Allowance) of famed/genius musicians, The New Pornographers come well-equipped to deliver on the most optimistic or pessimistic expectations.
For the naysayer, there is of course the age-old idiom of "too many cooks spoil the broth". You have eight band members, one of whom is A.C. Newman, another is Destroyer front-man Dan Bejar, and another familiar name would be Neko Case. Then you have contributions from Beirut's Zack Condon (stop laughing), orchestral elements provided by the Dap Kings and also additional sections featuring Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Will Sheff (Okkervil River). To quote the Wayne Rooney to their Albert Einstein 'this ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race'.
Exhibit A is made available not through presence, but rather, through absence. For an album of twelve songs by some of the most talented musical minds in North America, you'd expect melodies worthy of a annoying ringtone. Alas, for all its jovial pleasantry, Together does not list 'hooks' amongst its assets. Even the magnificent "Crash Years" - despite being the quintessential indie hit: sublime Neko Case vocals, whistled interludes, eclectic arrays of instruments - it leaves the party with no memories. Just an entire floor covered in six tonnes of beer bottles and glasses. The good time has been had, but damned if you can't recall it.
Having around 10-15 creative minds contributing to each song takes something of a toll also. The likes of "If You Can't See My Mirrors" and "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco" should work as low-key, restrained and emotive numbers. Sadly both attempts are squandered by the band's refusal to limit songs to only a few instruments. The latter begins its journey as a muffled piano-driven song providing the foil to a subdued vocal harmony. Quite why TNP saw fit to relaunch it mid-section as psychedelic glam-rock, we'll never quite know.
As we said before though. These faults may only reveal themselves to those who actively seek them. For those not adverse to a good old-fashioned supergroup, the rewards will be plentiful. There's an entire universe (hyperbole alert) of diversity at play. You could spend hours picking apart all of the inspired elements which combine to make each song, the vaguely sinister art-school lyricism ("Mistakes on the part of nature / The living proof of what they're calling love / Uncertain sideways streets / Where things that don't match meet" - Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk), all demand scrutiny and reward it.
Together is unlikely to be anyone's favoured New Pornographers album, but it is an incontestable achievement. Proof that sometimes a lot of cooks simply get the same job done, quicker.