Hot shit, has-been, next big thing, what could have been. The music scene is fraught with expressions of hyperbole and hype. Bands rise and bands fall. Critics revel in their ability to eviscerate and exult. Audiences are ardent, but fickle. With great expectations, and even greater limitations, indie rock stardom is fleeting.
Giving up, selling out, cashing in, or simply moving on. In bluesy times, these can seem like reasonable, even attractive, options. But sometimes, in the midst of an outright mutiny, the best alternative is to just chain yourself to the masthead and wait out the storm. Play with your kid. Plant a garden. Write songs.
And so it was with The Dears.
The Dears have not gone away and come back, but they have been transformed: by experience, by necessity, by life and its manifold curveballs. And with their new album, MISSILES, they have emerged as elder statesmen of the Canadian indie rock renaissance. They have been to awards shows and have been nominated for prizes, they have shared the stage with musical heroes, and they have sold out shows around the world. They have been recognized, mythologized, and eulogized. They have returned home to Montreal triumphant, and they have suffered defeat. But with defeat as their muse, they have grown and matured. And they have decided to stay.
From the release of their debut album END OF A HOLLYWOOD BEDTIME STORY in 2000, The Dears’ story has been one of burgeoning commercial and critical success. Known for their transcendent live performances, capital-R romanticism, and truly magnificent sprawling orchestrations, The Dears have always seemed a band with a destiny. With each subsequent album, they grew in breadth and depth: building an exuberant fan base, developing their craft, and exceeding expectations.
This period of pop-cultural growth and artistic development saw its culmination in two definitive albums: the thunderously beautiful and lushly evocative NO CITIES LEFT in 2004, and the less sonically magniloquent but gorgeously dense and thematically-rich GANG OF LOSERS in 2006.
But by the summer of 2007, The Dears were in crisis. With a need to cast out the demons that had started to gather around the periphery, Lightburn set about writing tracks for a solo album, but four songs into the process, discovered that what he was making was a new Dears record.
Recorded quickly, the album is a feast of stripped-down arrangements and raw emotion served up like a rustic meal, its songs polished but still containing traces of the rough soil from which they were born. The most explicit example is the affecting final track, Saviour, whose vocal track – an original demo take, recorded with a hand-held microphone only moments after the final lyrics were written – remains unadulterated, vulnerable amongst the organ swells and chorus of children’s voices. The music is restrained, yet there is an urgency to the lyrics. Lightburn is the confessor: first decoding, then submitting. Yanchak, whose striking voice is more present than on past albums, is the protector: nurturing and unbreakable.
MISSILES is a spring board to a new era. With plans in place for a series of shows beginning this fall, The Dears will unveil their touring line-up in the coming months.