when last I left you, I was about to go see the dears
at bowery but I realize I need to backtrack & talk about their album, no cities left
. tellingly, after my first few deep listens, front to back, don't answer the phone I'm BUSY, I dreamt of zeppelins in the afternoon sky, then a pirate ship crossing in front of an enormous full moon. this was not a "nice" picture but ominously unsettling, like a paper cut-out where the image is not what it seems or like kara walker's slave swamp terror silhouettes
. as the dream/dawn came, I looked out of an apartment situated over a massive body of water & saw mushroom clouds in the distance. I turned towards my boy & said where do we go? he grabbed my hand calmly & said "to the basement
"; he was clearly prepared for such an event. we went down there & sure enough, there was an entire world under the earth. & we were fine.
from the first hushed moments of we can have it
with its description of a bad dream that could very well just be the realization that relationships are limited by our ideas of what "ideal" should be to the stern acoustic admonishments of who are you, defenders of the universe?
(a sharp dialogue between two nations or two lovers & is there any difference?), I was captured. even a song like the second part
which at first listen seems dull, is put together for maximum brain burrowing. melodica solo, followed by sax doing the same solo, followed by two guitars harmonizing a la brian may? wha...? like a fan-kid's childishly enthusiastic idea of what every good song must & should
have, there's all sorts of amusements & lovely bearded ladies. the dears take full advantage of their carnival of sounds & they all get a chance to do their own wall of death moment. martin pelland's hypnotic bass line in the shape-shifting funk jam of postcard from purgatory
. george donoso III's uncannily precise, almost machine-like drumming, such as the dance beat that unexpectedly enters 1:59 into we can have it
. the female harmonies courtesy of keyboardists natalia yanchak & brigitte mayes coming in like a sugar rush on never destroy us
(highly appealing to my inner scamp who likes to imagine lightburn commanding "keyboard bitches, sing
!" & then, they do. yes. I'm very childish & fanciful, you should know this about me right up front). & of course, there's murray lightburns' parlor trick of coming in gentle, unspooling little curlicues of feyness, then fully unleashing a strong, almost operatic higher range such as on pinned together, falling apart
. not a bad trick, as far as tricks go, but he doesn't depend on that entirely to prove his point as a singer. on the romantic musings of warm & sunny days
, murray highwires jauntily around a lyric about getting older & not having a partner like some sort of insane boulevardier. he swoons about his sadness with a smile in his voice, right down to the repetition of the word "stars" against the music's common-sensical progression. head in the clouds indeed. somehow I imagine a guitar rolling it's eyes.
that's not to say that there aren't slips into full-on silly. anyone that moans "I don't have a raincoat of my own" is asking for gimlet eyed stare of derision. but all in all, I found that the personal & yes, at times, seriously over-dramatic declarations of hurt & intent were beautifully rendered; the rise of strings or brass or intricately arranged vocalizations swirling around the words.
ultimately, there's more at play here than some lyrics from the school of waah interlaced with a cluttered attic's worth of instrumentational flourish. I suspect that the album's detractors' big complaint would be "all these lyrics about the sad, boo freakin' hoo? who cares?". to which I reply, I know it's over & it never really began, so bite me. I know I may have had some doubts about what it said about my maturity to still like this type o' pity party rock. BUT. I. JUST. DON'T. CARE. I love the doom/gloom wistfulness because it confirms that the reason this type of pop expression remains potent is that those feelings, no matter how callowly expressed, are genuine & if the feelings are genuine, then I'm glad someone has some balls to be that open. especially with guitars around. & DEFINITELY if the feelings expressed are almost comical in their pathos & the people behind it are aware of that. people forget that even st. morrissey is a witty bastard & that most of the crop of american aggro-angsters are emphatically NOT. therein lies the difference?
is there a concept behind no cities left
? yes. underneath all the end-of-the-world talk & love lost & found, there is a message or rather, questions that reverberate. & that is: when it all goes down, will you be there with me? can you be there with me? please be there? not so unimaginable a desire...
so yes, the show at bowery ballroom. I nabbed my skeptical, but game, monkey
& went down to the gig. I was pleased & surprised that, in person, murray lightburn, who resembles a sad mastiff, albeit one in a snug leather jacket, downplays the mozzerisms. or should I say, that I was surprised that I was pleased that this was so? not only can he sing a line beautifully (the stand alone repeated refrain of "it won't ever be what we want" from we can have it
which shivered in the air) but he has a palpable sense of belief in what he sings. he knew whereof he sang & he meant it, man! in the best punk rock way. counting off, switching from acoustic & electric & back again, wailing on melodica, hitting the mini korg with look of single minded intensity, this was a man on fire! when he grabbed the tambourine & held it out in front of him over the crowd shouting "you are not alone
" I would've considered moving to his jonestown. lightburnsville?
oh yeah, & like blondie, the dears
are a BAND. donoso was an inventive little son of a gun. I loved the sound of the unexpected beat that comes in a couple of minutes into we can have it
that much MORE live. it made the zombie nyc crowd move despite itself. pelland was a groove machine. he got down with himself during the moody neo-noir jam opener postcard from purgatory
& I caught him smiling in glee at donoso when he started mixing things up. of the two ladies behind keyboards on stage, yanchak stood out by virtue of looking like one of those girls who sat behind me sometime in high school: cardigan clad, pale, with huge brown eyes & lank brown hair. she kept her head down, didn't smile, & played figures that made you look around for the third guitarist. later in the night, when murray & yanchak busted into their own personal musical theater duet 22: the death of all romance
, she opened her mouth so wide & her eyes were so huge as she sang the insidiously catchy "I can't believe the things you say/tell me the lies" refrain, I couldn't tell if it was passion or sheer terror that was driving her to such ecstatic heights. valerie jodoin-keaton (brigitte mayes' replacement) brought it too, especially in the coda to postcards from purgatory
when she added bright splashes with her flute. the guitarist (can't find the poor man's name) appeared to still be trying to find his stage legs but locked into it sometime around the queenalicious guitarmonies of the second part
; him & lightburn faced each other in a classic rock stance of who's bad? it was cheesy as all get out but enjoyable, because people having fun on stage is kinda the freakin' point, eh? perhaps my favorite number was a new one (SOMEONE? ANYONE? TELL ME WHAT THIS IS CALLED? PRETTY PLEASE?) which sounds like a lost britpop classic. in it, murray sings pointedly of someone "& you'll hate everyone 'til there's no one else
" & yet still manages to sound forgiving in his resignation. I left the show in a thrilled school kid state. happy to be so validated. even the monkey was won over!
for now, mozzer can rest easy about the steez theft. my imaginary friend murray clearly has his own path to follow. someone had to get him going, that's all. I will curiously observe that rock strewn path that his band takes & will be there when the dears return to the bowery ballroom on june 11
. because hey, it spoke to me & how could it not? I was re-assured. I was not alone.
album to seek: no cities left/the dears
Labels: D, The Dears