I came across The Dears from their second album No Cities Left, the 2005 reissue that also contained their earlier Protest EP, and I fell a little bit in love with Murray Lightburn’s voice.
A Canadian band from Montreal, but as different from their city siblings Arcade Fire as from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Lightburn has a lovely warm and soft voice and could probably croon quite successfully, but his heart is firmly entrenched in mid-90s Britpop. So much so that on reviewing this album in 2006, Paul Mardles in The Guardian wrote that “Britpop is alive and in rude health, having relocated from north London to Montreal.”
The Dears are essentially the husband and wife team of Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak who handles all keyboards and backing vocals, and they’re accompanied by a different “Gang of Losers” from album to album. This one is heavier on the guitar with less of the sweeping orchestral backdrop of No Cities Left which remains my favourite of theirs.
The Dears were compared (favourably) to The Smiths when No Cities Left album hit the shores of the UK and that influence remains in terms of lyrical substance, but they don’t sound like The Smiths and Morrissey’s song structures are generally more conventional. Lightburn’s songs are almost stream of consciousness, sometimes quite conversational; not abstract exactly but perfect at conjuring a mood or train of thought. The music seems to find a way to wrap itself around that. He does favour the enigmatic song title however, and on this album, Ticket to Immortality, Death or Life We Want You or You and I Are a Gang of Losers are the sort of song titles you’d expect to grace a Morrissey solo album.
To dismiss The Dears as Britpop revivalists is to do them a massive disservice, they’re far better than that. Most ‘rock’ bands these days feature chiming guitars and an indie sensibility of some sort. Though their guitar riff on Death or Life We Want You is ripped straight from Blur (Blur/13-era), a closer comparison would be the sensibility and sound of a band like Gene. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
Best Bits: Whites Only Party
Genre: Britpop Revival Canuck Style
Like This, Try This: Here’s their video for another album highlight Ticket To Immortality
Plus of course Gene, Olympian – one of the best songs of the mid-90s ‘Britpop’ ever.