donderdag 21 april 2011

The Dears - Degeneration Street

Guest review by

For those of us unable to grasp the brilliance of Radiohead, there has never been a true heir to Morrissey as the Prince of Pain (I know he’s still active, he just doesn’t seem to be in a lot of pain these days). Closest thing for me personally is Murray Lightburn of The Dears. Not so much for the vocal similarities as the tireless and shameless wallowing in misery. The title to The Dears fifth studio album Degeneration Streets suggests he’s still not the life of the party. The Dears received international attention in 2003 after the release their critically acclaimed second album No Cities Left, a magnificent portrait of universal affliction. Gang of Losers (2006) was angrier and rockier but I think apart from me and the Canadians not many people liked it. Missiles (2008) was a bleak indistinct album, marked by creative tensions within the band that reduced The Dears to the husband & wife duo that is its axes. Degeneration street sees the return of many of the same musicians of Gang of Losers and consequently it has the same energy. Some would call it excessive and snooty I would call it sumptuous. Let there be no mistake, Murray Lightburn is a man with very, very big shoes and instead of keeping him within bounds, wife and band members seem to stimulate him going all out in a manner that might have been tolerated within certain scenes back in the nineties, but today makes him sound like guy screaming in a dessert of his own making. If you consider Degeneration Street’s sound and sentiment to be retro instead of outdated that would make it much more tolerable. Advanced single Omega dog is a funky OK Computerish opener to the album, with an encore that holds more bombast than the average speech of a pressured North-African dictator. It’s hard too believe that it’s just a build up to the power-rock of 5 chords. There’s a lot I can forgive The Dears for, but the glissando during the middle eight of the song can just not be justified. Still, it’s not the over-the-topness of Degeneration Street or even its lack of constraint or modernity that is its greatest weakness. It’s the over-production thas turns the potential for raw aggresive energy of songs like Blood and Thrones into dark emphatic matter. Something similar happens to epic ballads like Lamentation and Tiny Man that are really The Dears trademark. It’s hard to listen past all the stylized pathos.Then there are also some smelly alleys of Degeneration Street. Torches is an ambient break in the middle of the album, that worked fine as an intro to Gang of Losers but is completely redundant as an intermezzo here. Galactic tides will offend those who grasp the brilliance of Radiohead more than me. Stick w/ me kid is the kind of music you hear during the montage-scene of a Hollywood action movie. Degeneration Street is a hard album not to ridicule, but as far as I am concerned it’s not a complete failure. Stripped from their alt. rock esthetics most of the songs aren’t half bad and to be honest I only got into Gang of losers after seeing The Dears play it live in the Melkweg. Perhaps after their show on the 16th of April in the Melkweg everything on Degeregation street will fall into place. I hope so, because even though on Degeneration Street he seems to have evolved from a black Morrissey into a tanned Tom York I still have great sympathy for Murray Lightburn and his big shoes. Manou Chen

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