The Dears - Gang of Losers
A lot has happened to Murray Lightburn since his band released their last album, the essential No Cities Left in 2003. For starters, that album propelled The Dears from quasi-cult status to bona fide stars, and spearheads of the Canadian Music Revolution; secondly, he married and had a child with bandmate Natalia Yanchak; thirdly, he found himself saddled with a variety of labels that the music press saw fit to brandish him with - 'The Black Morrissey' being the most amusing one. Truth be told, it's probably the most accurate one, too; Lightburn's velvety croon and occasionally crisp delivery of the most Morrisseyan of lyrics ('Being born is really such a chore') clearly pay debt to the bequiffed one. Gang of Losers, their third full-length release, sees the Montreal quintet continue to evolve and hone their epic-yet-fundamental indie sound while unabashedly acknowledging their influences. Where it differs from No Cities Left, though, is both subtle and blatant. Gone is the broad, sweeping production that loaned a cinematic bent to the former; Gang of Losers is neither half as introspective nor as shrewdly grandiose as anything on that album, yet retains the warmth and intrigue it commanded. Fatherhood has obviously changed Lightburn, not to mention provided him with a whole new lyrical scope: he fervently croons tender advice to daughter Neptune on a couple of occasions 'Don't hate everyone/'cos you'll hate yourself' and his voice teeters between fragile and powerfully resolute on several tracks. Musically, The Dears have both expanded their sound and harked back to their organic beginnings: single Ticket to Immortality is a moderately scuzzy indie-soul tune that builds and builds to an uplifting crescendo; Fear Made the World Go 'Round is an eerily jittery funk-tinged track that is slightly reminiscent of Portishead; I Fell Deep's meandering drum pattern could be lifted from a Kid A b-side, and Ballad of Humankindness has a simplistic, almost 80s-disco slow set feel to it. You certainly won't pick up on Gang of Losers' nuances on the first listen, and perhaps not even the second; but give it time, and its consistency and overwhelming gorgeousness will eventually ensnare you. One of the best albums of 2006.
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