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Issue #35 - Winter 2011 - Death Cab for CutieThe Dears

Degeneration Street


Mar 02, 2011 Issue #35 - Winter 2011 - Death Cab for Cutie Bookmark and Share

The Dears’ last album, 2008’s Missiles, came at a fractious time in the band’s history. The band that had recorded the album had dissolved, leaving only core members Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak. Still, Missiles was one of the best albums of that year; a soulful, experimental, and multi-layered masterpiece full of all the emotional feeling and emotive expression of a band that was falling apart while its two core, married members hung on for dear life.

The Dears’ fifth album, Degeneration Street, marks yet another chapter in the band’s career, with past bandmates Robert Benvie (guitars/keyboards/vocals), Patrick Krief (guitars/vocals), and Roberto Arquilla (bass/vocals) returning to the fold, and newest member Jeff Luciani on drums. The album begins with no hesitation, bearing down on the listener like a runaway train of fury, marking some of the heaviest tracks of the band’s history. The lead track, “Omega Dog” finds Lightburn singing in Prince-like falsetto; a funky and soulful song that betrays a dark undercurrent with subtle accenting strings, before building to a huge rock and roll climax. “Blood” is anchored by heavy, fuzzed-out guitars and a distinct sense of paranoia, and “Thrones” finds Lightburn channeling his inner David Bowie, singing “give up on heaven” while electric guitars swirl around his soulful croon.

After the four-minute slow burn of “Lamentation,” Degeneration Street seems to relax into more of a soul/pop groove for the album’s second half. “Yesteryear” channels ’60s pop in its swing, sway, and bounce. “Tiny Man” uses a gentle instrumental touch in relating the feeling of wanting to retreat underground with your loved ones to escape society’s prying eyes. And “1854” is held up by a Crowded House-like melody with chiming instrumental backing and crunchy guitars, before the song builds with orchestral backing to cathartic release. But perhaps the track that best symbolizes the start of a new Dears era is “Stick w/ Me Kid,” a headstrong, propulsive anthem of solidarity, unity, and strength. In some ways, it’s perfect for a band that has soldiered on through challenges, and has done so while continuing to create ambitious and vital music. (

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