Monday, February 14th, 2011
Review of The Dears’ Degeneration Street
DangerbirdThat The Dears never really realized the lofty expectations that accompanied them when they emerged out of Montreal at the turn of the century really isn’t important. Nor is the fact that they turned out to be more foreshadowing of the great Canadian indie renaissance of the past decade rather than leaders of it, or that the drama surrounding the band and its endlessly changing roster often overshadowed their already-quite dramatic music. All that really matters is that they’re still at it and their new record Degeneration Street is, for my money, their best yet.
That should probably be accompanied by the caveat that I’ve never really been a fan of The Dears. Their early albums, for which they were the most feted, had the sort of grandeur that I liked but was lacking in the hooks that would have kept my attention over the course of their sprawling records. 2006’s Gang Of Losers, while hardly perfect, was the first of their releases that I really warmed to. And even though many found it too conventionally “rock” compared to their more expansive efforts, most would agree that 2008’s murkily rambling Missiles, which bore the fingerprints of its difficult birth (most of the band quit or left during its recording), was a low point for the band.
It may have been a necessary nadir, though, as Degeneration Street finds the band – reconstituted with a number of band members from earlier incarnations – striking a lean and focused balance of rock, soul and prog with plenty of pop and just about the right amount of self-indulgence. Tracks like “5 Chords” and “Thrones” are the sort of soaring, guitar-propelled anthems that far too few Canadian acts even attempt, let alone pull off, while opener “Omega Dog” proves that it’s possible for the band to showcase the scope of their ambitions without taking six-plus minutes to do it and the unexpectedly retro bounce of “Yesteryear” shows they’ve still got some surprises up their sleeves. I’m inclined to give veteran producer Tony Hoffer props for helping the band pull it together, though just as much credit must go to Dears leader Murray Lightburn – a man with a bit of a reputation for being artistically controlling – for allowing someone else to take the reins. It might have taken five albums over eleven years, but The Dears may have finally arrived.
Degeneration Street is out tomorrow and currently streaming in its entirety at aux.tv. The Montreal Gazette has a feature piece on the band and the album will be spotlighted in the first Polaris Record Salon, wherein a Polaris juror argues for the record’s inclusion in this year’s longlist/shortlist/ – it takes place Tuesday night at The Drake Underground and will also feature a live interview with Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak. Doors at 7, starts at 8 and will feature a listening party for the album. And if you’d rather hear them play than see them speak, they will play an in-store at Sonic Boom this coming Thursday evening, February 17, at 7PM – admission free with a donation of canned goods.
The Guardian has a feature interview with Arcade Fire while Pitchfork has details on their upcoming Scenes From The Suburbs short film, helmed by Spike Jonze. And oh yeah congratulations to the band on last night’s “Album Of The Year” Grammy Award. Wait, who?
aux.tv features Young Galaxy in the latest installment of their Camera Music video session series, while Spinner and Chart talk to the band, who will be taking a pregnancy-induced hiatus at the end of April. Best catch them at Lee’s Palace on March 10 while you can.
Video: Shad – “Keep Shining”
Forest City Lovers have announced an April 1 show at The Garrison, where they will be accompanied by Slow Down Molasses and Kite Hill. NOW has a feature on Forest City Lovers’ Kat Burns and her artwork-an-hour An Hour Of My Time art project and she’s got a solo show at Holy Oak on March 3.