The Dears: Lovers Rock

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Montréal quintet The Dears, led by husband and wife duo Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak and a floating assemblage of musicians, have been going for some years but never really cracked it (assuming that getting more famous and playing bigger venues is their definition of success).

We bought an album when they were on the Bella Union label yonks ago, and think we saw them live (as a support act, Secret Machines maybe) but they were always a bit neither here nor there: no killer tunes and nothing really memorable.

We can’t see Lovers Rock making indentations on any plans to achieve world dominance and it still lacks a killer tune but in the interim they’ve got very good at what they do, and this is a must-listen for fans of “serious” indie pop/rock. Fans of bands like The War On Drugs or Eels.

All the reviews we read focused on the lyrics (gloomy) and not so much the music, presumably because the tunes are somewhat lacking in catchy hooks, being more like a classical symphony for the layers and complexity.

It’s good.

Opener Heart Of Animal might have pessimistic lyrics (“I can unequivocally feel / Almost all power drain from us”) but there’s a joyous “Ooo” before the chorus, which itself is mournfully uplifting.

I Know What You’re Thinking And It’s Awful (“Your mother weeps / Your father cries / Out why in the middle of the night”) is a delicate indie ballad, the terminally scary lyrics delivered with relish.

Instant Nightmare! features lots of “Whooo ooo!”s and a synth sound like a cheesy laser gun on a 60s kids’ space show while they sing: “This is an instant nightmare / But no one gives a damn”.

And so it goes: thoughtful, textured guitar pop put together with care, and depressing lyrics. We wonder how much is really carefully disguised optimism and advice for a better life.

The slow and vaguely Smiths-ish Is This What You Really Want? opens with “Nobody wants to die / But does anyone want to live” while The Worst In Us suggests that “While they’re bringing down the rest of us” they’re not “bringing out the worst in us.”

For this album the core Dears, Lightburn and Yanchak are joined by long-time drummer Jeff “Looch” Luciani (who brings out the subtleties in the song writing), Steve Raegele (guitar) and Rémi-Jean LeBlanc (bass). There’s also a string section, and saxophone from both Canadian Alex Francoeur and the E Street Band’s Jake Clemons.

Warmly recommended.

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