The Dears – Degeneration Street

written by: February 11, 2011
The Dears - Degeneration Street album artwork Release Date: February 15, 2011


Despite an inconsistent lineup and change in record labels, Canadian indie rockers The Dears have returned in 2011 with their newest effort, Degeneration Street. Unfortunately, the band’s return is met with a resounding more-of-the-same. Failing to advance or improve upon their sound, the album has a distinct lack of vision and is a decidedly aimless effort.

The album begins with “Omega Dog,” a superb opening track that ebbs and flows between darkly melodic tones and sweepingly orchestral sensibilities. Principal members and husband-and-wife duo Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak undoubtedly meant for the song to establish the overarching aesthetic of the album. Unfortunately for them, the tracks that follow “Omega Dog” fail to achieve its quality.

What results is an album that continually grasps at straws. There’s a strong sense of uncertainty that permeates Degeneration Street that stems from its erratic instrumentation and conflicting moods.

And while it’s unfair to fault The Dears for being ambitious, they’ve never been a band capable of achieving the kind of wide palate they seem to be shooting for.

Perhaps it’s their constantly fluctuating membership or Lightburn’s incessant and increasingly annoying Morrissey impersonation. Regardless, Degeneration Street feels less like a cohesive piece of work and more like a collection of tracks from a band long broken up.

However, while the tracks feel conflicting in sequence, some of the songs work nicely as stand-alone efforts. “Lamentation” is an easygoing, jazzy tune and one of the few that benefits from the band’s penchant for reciprocal rhythms, while “Stick w/ Me Kid” is a capriciously danceable number that manages to attain the gloominess the band strains to achieve. Still, other songs remain unsalvageable. The album’s worst tracks (“5 Chords,” “Easy Suffering”) play like a bad collection of Arcade Fire b-sides.

Yet these moments of unimaginativeness bolster the more successful elements of Degeneration Street. For an album that relies so heavily on its broadly scoped compositions, there are moments on Degeneration Street that yearn for simplicity. Thankfully, moments of solace can be found. Perhaps the album’s most listenable track, “Blood,” is a genuine radio jam, fitted with chunky guitar sounds and an infectious tonality. “Tiny Man” is another example of a song finding its way from beneath Lightburn and Yanchak’s heavy-handedness.

Ultimately, though, Degeneration Street remains too conceptual for its own good. Clocking in at a bloated 60 minutes, enduring the album can easily be described as a chore. Lightburn and Yanchak would have been wise—in the wake of a constantly rotating band of supporting players—to pare down the grandiosity and shoot for an album far more centralized.

Artists can often lose their footing when they confuse ambition for aimlessness, and The Dears fall victim to their own meandering.

The Dears have always been susceptible to meandrous rumination. In previous efforts, such their 2007 album Missles, the band seemed on the verge of falling prey to their own precarious sensibilities. This album proves to be the tipping point. Degeneration Street is the work of a band sans focus and devoid of discipline.

Degeneration Street Tracklisting:

  1. Omega Dog
  2. 5 Chords
  3. Blood
  4. Thrones
  5. 5. Lamentation
  6. Torches
  7. Galactic Tides
  8. Yesteryear
  9. Stick w/ me Kid
  10. Tiny Man
  11. Easy Suffering
  12. Unsung
  13. 1854
  14. Degeneration Street