CD Review of Missiles by The Dears
Recommended if you like
Arcade Fire, Tindersticks, Coldplay
Label
Dangerbird
The Dears: Missiles

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

A
ny band that calls itself the Dears might seem somewhat precious for starters. Not surprisingly then, this Montreal-based cooperative is prone to arching, overreach, and a sound bolstered by lavish arrangements, soaring crescendos and vocals that emulate a cool croon. Having established their dramatic disposition over the course of three previous albums – the most recent of which, Gang of Losers, proved a big winner – they aim for the heavens with what may be their most extravagant effort yet.

Consequently, a skeptic might suggest that the Dears’ are fixated more on the additives and less on the essence, in that their melodies don’t always resonate on first encounter. Nevertheless, Missiles is a spectacular sounding album despite its arduous undertones. Singer/leader Murray Lightman wraps these songs in a symphonic sheen, lowering the volume at the outset and gradually increasing the intensity as they rumble their way towards a conclusion. While the sweeping circumstance and high-minded platitudes emulate the anthemic stance of say, Coldplay or U2, Lightman and company are even more obsessed, more somber, and more stifled in the way they rail against their imagined oppression. “There are demons around here / I ain’t that stupid,” Lightman insists in the propulsive “Demons,” stating his case self-consciously. Then there’s this from the melancholic “Meltdown in A Major”: “They’re drunk on the streets tonight / So who cares how you’re suffering?”

As unsettling as that sounds, Missiles should extend the band’s reach, thanks in large part to the fact that it sounds as if it’s larger than life. Their cryptic lyrics aside, they give the impression that they’re working through issues of grave importance, thanks to songs sung with a furled brow and weighty contemplation. That’s evident throughout, from the shimmering opener “Disclaimer” and its low-cast successor “Dream Job,” to the gathering storm clouds of “Saviour” and the churning drone of the title track. What starts off subdued soon turns ominous, giving this material an authority and indeed, an intensity, that would suggest Missiles is right on target.

That said, one suspects that this album will resonate more effectively when it’s performed on stage. That should allow Lightman to play out his dramatic flourishes while pouting and posturing to his heart’s content. At this juncture, The Dears veer more towards cabaret than compelling rock ‘n’ roll, an outfit that’s profound yet without clear purpose.

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