Toronto – Between Paul Giamatti blessing the city at the Golden Globes, Karkwa winning the Polaris and little known local band Arcade Fire (who?) winning the record of the year at the Grammies, you can say that the city of Montreal has had a pretty good recent run. FINALLY, they are getting some international attention for what I can only assume is a pretty decent arts and music scene. Of course, anyone who knows anything about Canadian music will have known that this has been the case for a long time. One of my first introductions to Montreal bands was The Dears, a band I first saw all the way back in March of 2003, right about the time No Cities Left was released. I didn’t know anything about the band at the time, as I was still deeply entrenched in the “only will listen to UK stuff” phase, but my friend Nick was able to drag me out to this affair on the promise of a few free beers. They played in front of maybe 30 people at the Power Planet, a small bar in the heart of the University of Alberta campus. I was impressed by the aura of drama surrounding their sound, as well as Murray Lightburn’s ability to just belt it. I picked up that album after the show and was impressed at their orchestral dark take on lovey pop music. It was almost like a UK band. Anyone listening to Canadian music at the time was probably in love with the single Lost in the Plot.
Since that time, the band has changed dramatically. With a revolving door of musicians, the bands encountered some difficult album releases. 2011 marks the release of the fifth album band the band, an album titled Degeneration Street. The album marks the return of members of Patrick Krief, Rob Benvie and Roberto Arquila, three members who had left prior to the release of Missiles. Given Murray Lightburns’ well known volatile personality, I very much imagined the scene where Murray brings his pals back in for this album to be like this:
Murray would then turn around, see Patrick, Rob and Roberto there and exclaim “You guys are here! you guys are here!” followed by the three saying “We were always here, Murray. We’ll always be here”. A group hug would happen before they retire to Murray’s loft and spend the afternoon listening to Morrissey albums.
Degeneration Street is the band’s fifth album. Upon initial listening – it’s good. It eschews the weaker elements of the Dears (lack of focus, indulgence) and focuses on the best elements of The Dears – grandiose dramatic pop powered by Murray Lightburn’s soulful voice, which somehow treads the thin line between desperation and hope. The album sounds tighter and richer then all previous efforts. My friend Dwayne has been quite insistent that this album will be The Dears comeback album, and after an initial listen, I would have to agree. Mired in difficulties with previous releases, Degeneration Street appears to be a large step forward for this band.
Of course, you can decide for yourself check out The Dears in person at SXSW, where the band will be playing various shows, including the Dangerbird showcase on March 18th.
For those of you in Toronto, the Dears will be involved in some sort of chat tonight with music journalist Jon Dekel at the Drake. Facebook event here
They also made a homemade video for their song Omega Dog, it’s posted on this site called “you” tube. Check it out here
Here are some tour dates, I guess
March 4th Sugar Victoria, BC
March 5th The Venue Vancouver, BC
March 7th Crocodile Café Seattle, WA
March 9th Slim’s San Francisco, CA
March 10th The Troubadour Los Angeles, CA
March 17th SXSW Austin, TX
March 18th Dangerbird Records Showcase Austin, TX
March 19th SXSW Austin, TX
March 20th SXSW Austin, TX
Oh yeah, hate to whore it out like this, but feel free to vote for us as your favorite Canadian music based blog for CBC Radio 3’s Searchlight poll here.