The Canadian alternative scene has never been at a higher point, with Arcade Fire having won Album of the Year on Sunday at the Grammys. The spotlight is now on The Dears, a Montreal band who released its new album “Degeneration Street” on Tuesday.
The band, along with its cohorts Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, has gathered critical acclaim for its grandiose approach to “underground” music: preferring many instruments and dense arrangements compared to the often simpler approach of American bands.
The formula continues to work for The Dears on the new album. The record opens with “Omega Dog,” a track crowded with instrumental input. The thick bass from the kick drum serves as the backbone, but it’s easy for the listener to wander among the guitars, keyboards, violin and vocalist Murray Lightburn’s falsetto. The song ends with an energetic solo from guitarist Patrick Krief, but is almost tuned out by the wall of sound from the other instruments. Solos might not be hip, but the band would’ve been forgiven for getting caught up in the moment.
The same excitement and dense instrumentation almost make “Blood” a party song, if lyrical content is ruled out. “Yesteryear” is equally upbeat. More often than not, more instruments equal a better song on this album. Light fare like “1854” just can’t live up.
Lightburn’s high pitch approach to “Omega Dog” is different than his regular pitch. Critics often compare his vocals (much to Lightburn’s resentment) to Morrissey. Even if Lightburn doesn’t like it, his similarity to the British musician makes tracks like “5 Chords” and “Thrones” appealing.
Lyrically, the songs don’t weave as grand a picture as Arcade Fire does, but that would be asking a lot. It would be fairer to compare The Dears to Broken Social Scene, and from that angle, The Dears are looking good.