Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reviews:: The Dears Missiles

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It’s no secret that The Dears have had a rough road trying to follow up on the success of Gang of Losers. A label change (from Arts & Crafts to Dangerbird) and even in a band that adds and drops members constantly, a huge shift in personnel. Murray Lightburn decided that it would be better to move in a new direction – one that ultimately only involved him and his wife (Natalia) and not surprisingly, one that is full of new sounds and uncertainty.

Missiles is an oddly constructed collection of sounds and ideas. Murray and Natalia (along with a cast of rented musicians) bob and weave around orchestral sounds, cold textures, stripped down melodies and introspection. Murray not only questions himself and his life, but also his song writing and forced himself to move in new directions as he continues to move further and further from the palette that defined his earlier work. I don’t want to read too much into the collapse of the group, as Murray has always been the driving force of the band and I think for him, standing still is like giving up, and he's not ready to do that.

This record is more an indication that the next move is still yet to be decided as opposed to an artist finding a new sound. Like most efforts by “The Dears”, it’s far too early to say if it works. The band has changed direction and style so much that trying to digest and understand where Murray is coming from is a time consuming process and one that will impress as many as it alienates. There are moments of sonic exploration that live side by side with acoustic driven open admissions.

Huge soaring guitar solos and sweeping strings and synths battle for attention while acoustic textures and simple beats do their best to avoid the spotlight that shines directly on them. The album shifts from epic soundscapes to claustrophobic moments of beauty. At times, the experiment works perfectly - Murray and Natalia harmonize perfectly on Crisis 1 & 2, and by resisting the urge to add too much to the background, the song is one of the strongest on the record. You hear every note, every word and you feel like you are part of the song.

But Missiles on the whole is a more personal journey meant for Lightburn and Yanchak, one that sees them shifting in whatever direction they feel like moving. I’m not trying to judge the reasoning behind the songs, especially not from someone who wears his heart on his sleeve so proudly, but often on personal musical journeys the results are mixed. Huge guitar solos and long song lengths are not going to appeal to everyone, but Missiles shows joy, confusion, anger, terror, and sadness; the emotions you wrestle with when you are left alone. The songs make you think everything in Murray and Natalia’s world is crumpling, but the pair is ready to push forward.

Meltdown in a Major starts simply, but gradually the song adds layer upon layer and Murray’s suffering starts spiraling. The noises are beautifully arranged and they start growing and growing as if the band is making a defiant stance against the world. The tracks pulses with energy as it surges forward, but eventually all that is left is white noise and crackles and you wonder if Murray believes all he has left is his music. Either way, sometimes you need to get everything off your chest before you can move on and I think that’s exactly what Missiles represents for The Dears.

Posted at 1:21 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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