The Dears; Degeneration Street
Murray Lightburn makes no small gestures. That isn’t necessarily a shortcoming, considering how he and The Dears fire “Thrones” into its pre-chorus with the words “Not a single one of us has the guts to bear a cross.” That line would leave a simpler singer with nothing but pure feigned insolence, but Lightburn is still deft at tying maudlin lows to the highs of romantic tenacity. The Dears never have trouble sounding convinced of their material, even the lesser songs on the new Degeneration Street. “5 Chords” has a hungry lunge even though it sounds half-written, and the opener, “Omega Dog,” threatens to become a willing doormat for its arrangement—though at least it isn’t a dull arrangement. The album enjoys the benefit of a slick finish, while Lightburn’s vocals and Jeff Luciani’s drumming ward off its pitfalls, especially on “Yesteryear” and “Unsung.” “Galactic Tides,” “Stick With Me Kid,” and “Easy Suffering” show off the variety that can be found in just a handful of Dears songs, from apocalyptic laments to mid-tempo pop that vengefully defies its own cool. They also contribute to a feeling that a little more tightness would make The Dears’ albums and songs a magnitude finer. Still, Degeneration Street is a credit to Lightburn’s songwriting acumen and stubbornly heightened emotions. The Dears make some bulky records, but no half-hearted ones.