Release Date: Feb 15, 2011
Record label: Dangerbird Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Click to Listen to The Dears' Degeneration Street Dears leader Murray Lightburn has a dramatic streak wide as his Canadian homeland, and his group's fifth LP gives it plenty of elbow-room. A four-part song cycle involving apocalyptic prophecy and frozen hell, Degeneration Street often reads as art-rock with a death-metal storyline: With a few tempo changes, "Blood" could pass as a Mastodon cover. Yet musically, the LP is a shuffle mix: "Galactic Tides" is an End-time prayer done in Thom Yorke falsetto, "Yesteryear" a Motown strut with choir and harpsichord.
The Dears were churning out sweeping, blustery epics long before ”dramatic indie rock from Canada” was its own subgenre, and Degeneration Street, the band’s fifth album sees them perfecting the template. Singer Murray Lightburn’s somersaulting pipes soar over a tangle of brawny guitars, and while their tense theater-rock evokes everyone from Coldplay to Arcade Fire, the Dears are expert practitioners. A? Download These:Omega Dog, the moody, falsetto-led single, at last.fm Yesteryear, a groovy bit of dark pop that nods to the Smiths, at last.fm .
Founding members of anthemic, Montreal-based indie rock collective the Dears, Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak, had to go it alone on 2008’s fractured Missiles, a deeply personal collection of moody, angst-filled modern rock that was drenched in atmosphere, though low on hooks. Degeneration Street, the group’s fifth studio album, finds the band not only back at capacity, but bursting at the seams with engaging melodies, memorable choruses, and renewed apocalyptic fervor. Built on a foundation of traditional, early-'90s Brit-pop (Pulp, Blur, Suede) -- the usual Radiohead-meets-TV on the Radio comparison still applies as well -- Degeneration Street may feel a bit old-fashioned, but Lightburn and company are invested enough to pull it off.
It hasn’t been a particularly easy half-decade for Montreal collective the Dears. When they dropped the highly acclaimed No Cities Left back in 2003, there was little reason to think they wouldn’t soon be playing the same arenas as Arcade Fire, their neighbors and fellow architects of grandiose pop. Instead, the band disintegrated in cloud of internal conflict and ever-diminishing returns.
The Dears’ last album, 2008’s Missiles, came at a fractious time in the band’s history. The band that had recorded the album had dissolved, leaving only core members Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak. Still, Missiles was one of the best albums of that year; a soulful, experimental, and multi-layered masterpiece full of all the emotional feeling and emotive expression of a band that was falling apart while its two core, married members hung on for dear life.
The Dears frontman Murray Lightburn eats alt-rock drama for breakfast. The guy can’t resist a carefully crafted minor-key epic, and in his band’s 11-year recording career, he’s come up with some damn fine ones. But The Dears’ brand of complex, heady emo is a distinctly acquired taste, and that fact helped maintain the band’s status as somewhat of a hidden gem.
Steve Lamacq once said of [a]Pulp[/a]’s ‘Common People’ that its success was partly owed to “everyone desperately wanting them to have a hit”. He could dust off those words again when describing Canada’s long-toiling, merry-go-round band of blusterous alternative rockers, [a]The Dears[/a]. In many ways the group’s circumstances echo large parts of [a]Pulp[/a]’s; perennially lauded by few others beyond hardened devotees, they survive on their frontman’s insatiable desire to succeed.So, like a prize fighter still chasing his final payday, [b]Murray Lightburn[/b] brings back his support team for a fifth album, bloodied of nose, emotional scars on display, but importantly, still unbowed.
There was a time when the Dears were mentioned in the same breath as Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene as torchbearers for millennial Canadian indie rock. That notion sank along with a series of albums that failed to live up to the promise of 2003's No Cities Left, but it hasn't killed the band's ambition. Regrouping their "greatest hits" lineup, the Dears go for broke once again on Degeneration Street, applying their put-it-all-on-the-table approach to make their bulkiest, densest album yet.
With some bands you get a sense after two or three albums that they are forever destined to play the blushing bridesmaid, relegated to the lower reaches of lists which begin with the names of acts your vaguely pop-literate co-worker might have heard of. On occasion the sense turns out to be misguided. In 1987, for example, an aspiring Sheffield combo would have understood the phrase 'you’ll end up like Pulp' as a stern warning against the perils of self-indulgence rather than a promise of cultural cachet to come.
Degeneration Street, the fifth album by Montreal's the Dears, should, in theory, sound like sweet redemption. Following the release of and tours behind 2006's Gang of Losers, the Dears founder Murray A. Lightburn lost most of his long-time band to attrition. That album had been the most successful for the Dears, though, with support from the label Arts & Crafts and respectable chart positions in Britain and Canada.
The guys (and gal) in The Dears must be especially good with names, because after going through so many lineup changes over the years things would have to get a little confusing. Despite so many shifts in the band’s genetic make-up, Degeneration Street, the Montreal rock band’s fifth record, sounds like it was made by a band who’d played together their entire lives. Opening track “Omega Dog” saunters in with crisp drums, fuzzy guitar stabs and Murray Lightburn’s unmistakable falsetto, all blending into a tune that manages to haunt, groove and brood all at the same time.
Fifth album of melodrama set to pop hooks from Canadian Anglophiles. Jon Lusk 2011 Seasons come and seasons go, just as do members of Canada’s Anglophile bombast rockers The Dears. Their fifth album sees the core membership of singer and songwriter Murray Lightburn and his wife Natalia Yanchak augmented this time around by four other members. Although he’s left behind the orchestral pop noir sound of The Dears’ early years, and these days relies largely on keyboards and guitars, Lightburn still seems far more fond of overstatement than understatement, and shows a definite preference for dense arrangements.