Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review: The Dears - Missiles (* * * *)

It's a rare thing for a band to have the majority of the members leave during the recording of an album and still complete the project. I imagine it's even more unusual when the resulting record is worth hearing. Yet this is the case with The Dears most recent effort, Missiles, a fascinating blend of organic and digital elements that, apparently, is much better than it should be.

I suppose the success of any record hangs on the creative force behind it, which in this case is the husband and wife duo of
Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak, the only two band members who survived the writing and recording process. Missiles sounds like a very personal and private work as a result of a more concentrated sphere of influence, despite the fact that the liner notes show well over a dozen people contributed to the playing and production of the music.

While there are numerous flourishes including plenty of keyboards, the occasional fiery guitar solo, and even a children's choir, the music has a minimalist feel to it, occasionally sounding almost unfinished, though the overall tone is surprisingly warm. With traces of soul, jazz, and prog rock, The Dears have subtly expanded their indie rock sound. The Songs rarely have immediately recognizable structures, instead they flow from section to section until they eventually reach their dramatic climax and fade away.

The tunes are quirky and occasionally strange, but they are also intricate and melodic. "Money Babies," the first single, describes a desperate economy but with a deceptively pleasant sound filled with layers of synth and guitar, while "Crisis 1 & 2" features beautiful harmony and percussion behind the singers describing "a suicide mission that has us by the balls," and thinking "a surprise attack should do the job." Missiles is an album with personality and character and better for it, even if The Dears occasionally stretch their ideas too far or are unwilling to self-edit. The title track, "Missiles" is a lyrically and musically over-dramatic, and "Savior" doesn't really need to be over 11 minutes long, but every eccentricity is part of the experience.

Missiles, at the very least, defines Lightburn and Yanchak as artists dedicated to their work and true to their vision. Their diligence has paid off in an album that can be both appreciated and enjoyed for its creativity and intelligence.

Favorite Tracks: "Dream Job," "Money Babies," "Demons"

Check out the new video for "Money Babies"