Pompous Canadian Indie Rock Overwrought But Overwhelming


The Dears are as elusive as a chameleon on a desert rock. The six-piece band hails from Montreal, home to general North American pretentiousness and, thanks to new Canadian labelmates Broken Social Scene, an increasingly prominent but still unusual groundswell of indie rock. Accordingly, high drama trickles into their recordings (a 2001 EP named Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique etc.), but the group’s 2004 breakthrough, the unendingly pretty No Cities Left, played like a marriage of cabaret, jazz, and new wave. (Trust me, it actually was compelling.) Gang of Losers, however, was recorded in single takes in an effort to get less orchestral and more, well, pop noir, unleashing a wheelbarrow full of chiming hooks, lively “doo doo doo” harmonies, and newfound brevity. But strangely, what the sloppier approach really does is highlight bandleader Murray Lightburn’s wondrous voice. The guy sings his ethereal balls off, so that when he apes that most deft of British bands—Bush—on the driving “thirsty desert plain” rocker “Death or Life We Want You” or catapults into soprano over faux Gregorian chant on gorgeous album closer “Find Our Way to Freedom,” he overwhelms us, like a desert rock falling on a chameleon.

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