Montréal stalwarts The Dears return to release their eighth studio album: this is definitely still pop music, just a ‘very different kind of pop music’.
Released: 15th May 2020
Label: Dangerbird Records
Format: CD / LP / Digital / Streaming
I need to start with an apology. To ‘The Dears’. Yes, Murray Lightburn and Natalia Lanchak, I’m talking to you here. I loved your album ‘No Cities Left’ (2003). I even came and saw you play it live a couple of times. Those were some beautiful gigs. Then I lost touch. I didn’t pay you enough attention. We drifted apart. You released another five albums. I was probably watching Game of Thrones. It was me though, not you. My sad mistake. Time to rectify that.
The Wikipedia page for The Dears contains a complex timeline. No less than 23 people have counted themselves members of the band since their formation in 1995. Making them something like Montreal’s answer to The Fall. Lighburn and Lanchak have been together (musically speaking only, I think) since 1998, ‘making apocalyptic love songs for an existential crisis’. No time like the present then.
Lightburn (helpfully for this reviewer – see above) feels their breakthrough record and their latest offering are intrinsically linked. “There’s a direct line between the sort of doominess of No Cities Left and this album,” he says. “You could go straight from Lovers Rock to No Cities Left and it’s like they’re interlocked. But it’s a different kind of doom.” 2020’s version of doom contains titles such as ‘I Know What You’re Thinking And It’s Awful’ ‘Instant Nightmare!’ and ‘The Worst In Us’. But this is definitely still pop music, just a ‘very different kind of pop music’.
This is the kind of pop music that cascades over you like an angry wave of hopeful melancholy. And (to torture an already laboured metaphor) The Dears are surfing it contentedly to their very own post-pop beat. There are so many ideas here, wrestling sometimes for their own bit of the limelight. And so many changes of direction that each track could be soundtracking it’s own four minute space-romance-spy thriller.
No surprise then that Lightburn tells of a song-writing process which is ‘like an onslaught of ideas and sounds…a feverish process.’ This could be a debut album; overburdened as it is with imagination, vitality, angst. It is certainly not the ‘dumb rock music’ the band’s talisman pertains to be making. This is cerebral and unconventional. Driven and exacting. This is dark-sky thinking. And it is worthy of much more of your brain space. And mine.