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HomeArts & CultureTunes Review: The Dears—Degeneration Street

Tunes Review: The Dears—Degeneration Street

Grade: A-

Peter de Vries, Staff Contributor

 

It looked like The Dears were nearing their end three years ago. Despite the strength of 2008’s Missiles, the band was reduced to lead singer Murray Lightburn, Natalia Yanchak and a slew of part-timers after the original members left. Now most of the band has returned for Degeneration Street, and The Dears sound rejuvenated.

The band gets to the point right away with “Omega Dog,” Degeneration Street’s first single. You know you’re in for something dramatic and painstakingly crafted when you hear the track’s opening synths and carefully paced beats. From there, an infectious guitar hook and Lightburn’s falsetto carry the song gracefully through its first two-and-a-half minutes.

Then, synths, guitars, a harpsichord-like keyboard and Lightburn’s haunting vocals combine to create a climactic tornado of sound that’s somehow liberating in its chaos but never veers too far off course. It’s a hell of an opener.

There is no shortage of the drama and the long, pensive moments that Dears fans have come to expect, if not crave, from the band on Degeneration Street, either. The band enters Pink Floyd territory when the backing choir kicks in on “Lamentation” and “Galactic Tides,” creating harmonies that conjure up fond memories of Floyd classics like “Us and Them.” These choral harmonies could come off as overbearing in combination with the ever-present solemnity in the Dears’s music, but mostly they sound grand, satisfying and richly deserved.

There are no lighter numbers on Degeneration Street, or any other Dears album, per se, but songs like the more upbeat “Yesteryear” help break up the pace of what is often a very languid album. But this isn’t a problem, since The Dears’s sound has always thrived at a slower tempo than most bands, and late standouts like the brooding “Tiny Man” show the newly reunited Dears at their most confident.

The album’s bombast may occasionally be excessive, but the bravery required to write elaborately constructed songs from sincere emotions has always been one of the biggest parts of The Dears’s appeal. All of this is on full display in Degeneration Street.

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