Dears turn studio prowess into stage brilliance
Matthew Solarski | Thursday, January 27, 2005
Fresh off a whirlwind year of sold out shows, high praise press and accolades right and left, Montreal’s The Dears return to capitalize with this, a live record. “Thank You Good Night Sold Out” seeks to encapsulate The Dears’ oft-gushed-about live show, currently approaching legendary status in its native Canada, on one tiny piece of iridescent plastic. And shine it does! On this fabulous record, listeners are treated to classic and soon-to-be-classic Dears songs, eight in all, comprising nearly 70 continuous minutes of music and melodrama. This is hardly your substandard, affected “All My Children” melodrama, however – it is Eugene O’Neill at his dramaturgical best: epic, sprawling, tortuous and tortured. Massive guitars courtesy of Martin Pelland and Patrick Krief clash and conspire with keyboard and synthesizer strings, provided by the sextet’s literal feminine side, Valerie Jodoin-Keaton and Natalia Yanchak. Drummer George Donoso III keeps superb pace with the many moods of The Dears, lending a practiced sense of rhythm to the brooding build-ups to the apocalyptic crash-downs that characterize the typical Dears track. Frontman and principal songwriter Murray Lightburn rises above all the drama, chaos and occasional bombast of gnarled guitars and cinematic synth strings with his unmistakable, effervescent croon. As a self-professed acolyte of Morrissey, the influence of the former Smiths singer on Lightburn comes as no surprise. For his part, however, Lightburn adds his own twists and idiosyncrasies to Morrissey’s expressive vocal approach, including a willingness to wring every last dollop of emotion out of certain notes. This proves a sublime compliment to The Dears’ theatrical sound.After releasing its second record, the stellar “No Cities Left” in late 2003, The Dears began to win the hearts and affections of several music media heavyweights. Rolling Stone recently named the band one of ten acts to watch, while British weekly NME awarded it the much coveted “single of the week” last August for the chilling “We Can Have It.” Said track is, in fact, conspicuously absent from “Thank You.” The tracks that do make the cut, however, more than make up for this oversight.”Thank You” opens slowly, with the tense, almost foreboding instrumental introduction of “Autonomy.” Murray’s vocals do not rise to the fore until nearly four minutes into the track, which broods and boils until unleashing what the opening chords portend: a relentless guitar-driven assault, punctuating Lightburn’s exalted lamentations. Following this ten-minute epic (and after some loony in the crowd vocalizes his profound love for The Dears) is the significantly sunnier “C’Ã©tait Pour la Passion,” a track from the first Dears record whose jangling guitars and prancing keyboard recall 80’s British act, Felt. Lightburn and company tear through five more choice cuts, including the explosive “Lost in the Plot,” before arriving at the only appropriate conclusion: a maelstrom rendition of “Pinned Together, Falling Apart” that clocks in at 22 minutes.The Dears still have a few kinks to work out before they can achieve widespread success and seduce the ever-skittish hoi polloi; for now, “Thank You” stands as a perfect testament to an act that may someday prove legendary. Even beyond Canada.