The Dears, Concorde 2, Brighton
The Dears prove their true worth
Wednesday 16 February 2005
The Dears may not have the most arresting name in pop history, but musically they are full of promise. It's taken three albums and 10 years for them to get where they are today - that is, playing to packed venues - an achievement that is largely down to their current LP
No Cities Left, a collection of darkly expressive, highly articulate pop songs that prompt immediate comparisons to Blur, Belle & Sebastian, Pink Floyd and The Smiths.
The Dears may not have the most arresting name in pop history, but musically they are full of promise. It's taken three albums and 10 years for them to get where they are today - that is, playing to packed venues - an achievement that is largely down to their current LP No Cities Left, a collection of darkly expressive, highly articulate pop songs that prompt immediate comparisons to Blur, Belle & Sebastian, Pink Floyd and The Smiths.
If you had to guess where The Dears came from, it would be a toss-up between London and Manchester, though they hail from Montreal. Their love of all things British is no secret ("Well, we do have the Queen on our money," they quipped during a recent interview), a fact that is borne out by the singer Murray Lightburn's admiration for Morrissey. His voice has a similar tremulous moan, while his lyrics come with a beguilingly poetic moroseness. The opening lines to the brilliant "Lost in the Plot" - "Take me for a drive to the coastline / Pull me to the depths of the sea", could seamlessly preface Morrissey's "Everyday is Like Sunday" ("This is the coastal town / That they forgot to close down").
But that's not to say Lightburn is merely a Stars in Their Eyes version of Morrissey. While Johnny Marr would be sure to recognise the jangly opening chords of "Don't Lose the Faith", you imagine even he would baulk at the psychedelic noodling that arrives at the end of "Expect the Worst". Put simply, The Dears can rock out with the best of them and they're too smart to get weighed down by their own emotional baggage.
Their enthusiasm is heart-warming. "Last time we played in this town, we had an audience of approximately 10," grins Lightburn, adding: "You seem to have multiplied." They'll keep growing, too, if they continue knocking out records like No Cities Left, though they're hard-rockin' approach doesn't always translate live.
Tonight, there are moments when the five band members seem to be battling against one another, in particular during the opener, "Postcards from Purgatory". Having kept the audience waiting for 45 minutes (forcing some to leave early in order to get the bus home), they begin with a feedback-filled psychedelic wig-out that would have been better off saved until later, if not wiped from the set. This is closely followed by "Never Destroy Us" - a soul-rock number that spills over with strings, flutes, horns and crashing guitars; basically everything including the kitchen sink.
It's on the simpler, more melodic numbers, when Lightburn's vocals are allowed to take centre stage; that The Dears show us what they're really made of. The Nico-esque keyboard player Natalia Yanchak (and, it transpires, Lightburn's missus) proves an impressive vocalist in her own right on the elegiac duet "22: the Death of All the Romance".
They say best things come to those who wait. After 10 years, it seems The Dears may at last be reaching their peak.
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