Pop Montreal 2010 Day One Recap – The Dears Preview New Album | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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The Dears

The Dears

Pop Montreal 2010 Day One Recap – The Dears Preview New Album, September 30th, 2010

Sep 30, 2010 Bookmark and Share


From topless men in tutus to a standout gig by one of the city's best bands, the first day of Pop Montrealslight on the programming front, as always, to ease festival goers into the fraywas visually and sonically stellar.

The majestic, criminally under-used Rialto Theatre was the site of the opening party, attended by media and industry types seeking free beer and finger food. DJ Grahmzilla laid down some accessible grooves, followed by a live performance by Edmonton's Gobble Gobble. As if singer/keyboardist Cecil Frena's Flock of Seagulls hair and turquoise shorts weren't dazzling enough, a trio of masked male ballerinas soon snaked through the audience and climbed up to support his frothy electro anthems with drums and percussive noisemakers, including tricked out children's toys. They sporadically jumped back into the loosely assembled crowd to whip up some energy, shaking their tail feathers, falling to the ground (thank you knee pads), gesticulating wildly and generally making mischief. Very of Montreal.

A little later at the same venue, a makeshift runway was set up for Fashion Pop, pitting six local designers against each other for assorted prizes (and glory), with DJ Mini playing the designers' electro-pop, noise, and techno selections. Although winner Natasha Thomas was a smart choice, with her Burberry-esque variations on the trench coat, José Manuel St-Jacques's collection of vampire-inspired silks and furscomplemented by shoes blooming with red flora, blood-strained stockings, and a Bauhaus sample woven into the songwere the most memorable. Later, I took a bus south on Parc Avenue with several of the show's professional models, one of whom had to borrow change from her friends to make the fare. Very Montreal.

The night's main attraction was the first of three residency shows by The Dears, who are previewing their untitled fifth album (to be released in February on Dangerbird) by playing it in its entirety, and in its running order. Their first such set of gigs went down in Mexico City back in June, and they'll move on to Toronto in October and Brooklyn in November.

As someone who's followed the band for a decade, and seen them play countless times, this was a treat. The Dears have always been stellar live, and the sound in the sweaty basement of the Mission Santa Cruz church was surprisingly crisp, so standing through over an hour of unfamiliar material was a pleasure.

The set began with the punctuated groove of "Omega Dog"there's a high-quality video of this song performed in Mexico that's viewable online. Murray Lightburn's first utterances showcased some serious falsetto, preparing our ears for a huge vocal performance that seemed to span the bowels of the Earth to celestial heights. Meanwhile Patrick Krief launched into crazy-face guitar heroics like he's single-handedly bringing back the solo. The chatty, screechy stuff sets Krief apart from the average indie rocker, but his versatility was evident throughout the fairly eclectic set. If anything, it's his melodicism that makes him an invaluable player.

Up next was a faster, fist-pumping tune with a pounding beat and the first of the night's four-part harmonies, featuring Lightburn, Krief, Natalia Yanchak (who doesn't sing lead on this record), and keyboardist/guitarist Rob Benvie (a Dears alumnus from the No Cities Left era). On bass was another blast from the past, Roberto Arquilla, who played on the band's debut album, End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story. Drummer Jeff Luciani is new blood.

By the fourth song, the keys really added to the din of multiple guitars, plus Lightburn's keytar, which made a cameo on this poppy track. Things slowed down with track five, Benvie blowing into a melodica while Lightburn delivered another intense vocal performance. The pace stayed consistent on the next song, featuring the lyric "We're running out of songs to sing," but, as Lightburn announced afterwards, the "punishment" was only half done.

Next came the bounciest Dears track this side of "Whites Only Party," followed by a standout number that felt like an anthem, with lyrics to match: "I'll run till there's nowhere left to run/I'll love till there's no one left to love."

"All systems go sister" was the next mantra, accompanied (briefly) by the most minimal arrangement yet, just drums and acoustic guitar. Noise and melodic riffage returned on track 10, with a constant, slightly undulating guitar squeal reminiscent of Bowie's "Heroes." A more sprightly, minimal track followed, with only Krief and Arquilla supplying the strings. The penultimate track turned that around with a brash rock onslaught, sealed by Krief's craziest solo yet, with "la-la-las" sprinkled over the cacophony. And the closer brought the room down considerably, yet with impeccable style, pushing the synth to the fore with characteristically ominous lyrics alluding to the demise of the human race.

Of course they couldn't leave it at that, and returned for an encore of songs from No Cities Left and Gang of Losers. Material from the last record was notably absent, and while I maintain that Missiles featured some great songs, I feel like this new album, as a complete work, has left it in the dust. Very Dears.

www.popmontreal.com




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