There’s a direct line between the sort of doominess of No Cities Left and this album (Lovers Rock),” says frontman Murray. A. Lightburn. “You could go straight from Lovers Rock to No Cities Left and it’s like they’re interlocked…” Whilst lyrically and thematically Lightburn is correct; the cacophonies of sound reminisce Gang of Losers more closely. This is positive as The Dears previous two offerings (Times Infinity Parts 1 &2) occasionally looked retrospectively to No Cities Left.
On Lovers Rock The Dears also draw influence from Lightburn’s 2019 solo effort Hear me Out. Most impressively on Lovers Rock, The Dears take a colossal of what now would appear as jejune, raw indie sounds and make them into spectacular, emotional and cacophonous masterpieces.
The haunting, urgent and pressured intro of opening track “Heart of an Animal” immediately envisages an up-tempo offering of Bowie’s “Heroes”; however, by drawing from the rawer and rockier tracks from Gang of Losers; “Heart of an Animal” quickly embraces its own identity. Almost fifteen years since Gang of Losers; “Heart of an Animal” benefits from Lightburn’s developed and evolved vocal abilities, improved mixing and sound engineering without emitting the ebullient, ethereal pressured urgency and anxiety “Heart of an Animal” espouses.
On track two, “I Know What You’re Thinking”, one instantly notices a musical change of atmosphere to a love soundtrack. This is echoed in a catchy manner as Murray repeatedly sings “I can’t forget it” to soft piano and acoustic strumming with subtle organ. Fear not, whilst Lovers Rock deftly entices listeners in without them having to work as hard as on previous offerings; The Dear’s has not become so rudimentary by offering this lyrical twist: “is there anybody worth deceiving”.
“Instant Nightmare” makes a sudden and rude departure from “I Know What You’re Thinking”. Natalia Yanchak sings this dystopic anthem to a soundtrack of raw, deceptively youthful guitars reminding listeners of The Pixies “Where is my Mind” accompanied with alluring strings. Listeners are hoodwinked into entering a dangerous atmosphere which unexpectedly cuts dead leading into the tranquil, angst and anxiety-free “Is This What You Really Want”. Whilst the understated saxophone does not disrupt this songs’ sanguineness; the contrary lyrics, “nobody wants to die but does anyone want to live every day going through the motions (followed by the chorus which sees by Murray and Natalia duet) ”; nervous and anxious energy is secreted by the listener amidst a soundtrack of audible calm.
The key changes, the direction of individual songs and the moods transmitted to the listener vary and must not at any time be assumed, let alone predicted. Lead single “The Worst in Us” instantly reminds you “Bandwagoners” from Gang of Losers, but “The Worst in Us” has the advantage despite the grimness, darkness, and unsettling nature of the lyrics of being musically more instant, catchy and upbeat. The excitement intensifies just over two minutes in with the introduction of raw piano Krautrock elements which will potentially move many listeners to dance. Albeit more subtle, the Krautrock elements continue into “Stille Lost” where they share the stage with The Doors inspired organ with acoustic guitar and organic drums. There is then a genuinely unexpected crescendo of increased decibels and tempo amidst a marathon of infectious, passionately bursting saxophone until the playout.
The legacy of “Stille Lost” is “No Place on Earth” which opens with deadpan tranquillity. This tranquillity is interrupted with a blossoming of raw, muffled indie guitars as Lightburn sings “I don’t know where I’m going but I won’t be without you”. The additional injection of strings gives “No Place on Earth” the added atmospheric energy to encourage solo living room crowd surfing.
“Play Dead” and “Too Many Wrongs” take a more Motown and R&B approach as Lightburn did when he embarked upon his Hear me Out LP. “Play Dead” has some resemblance to “Belleville Blues” but with a collective The Dears twist, echoing their distinct guitar chords with the organ, bass backdrop resulting in a more superior quality recording. Whilst “Too Many Wrongs” has an almost folky acoustic feel; it blooms into an acoustic-led R&B song reminiscent of Diana Ross’ “I’m Still Waiting”.
Lovers Rock which is arguably an evolution of Gang of Losers goes back to this LP for the playout track “We’ll Go into Hiding”. Drawing more specifically from “You and I Are a Gang of Losers”; “We’ll Go into Hiding”, like the majority of the songs on Lovers Rock maintains momentum with organs and strings to intense lyrics “Remember when we were young. We never got on our knees. We’ll make it last forever on Lovers Rock”.
For those who initially discovered the esoteric gem known as The Dears, this discovery was probably not cemented hook, line and sinker by one (or even two) radio-friendly tracks; more likely it took a significant amount of time and copious listens from start to finish. The time and patience often required with The Dears music has made it challenging for their sound to reach a wider audience; however, through Lovers Rock (and a process that began on their Times Infinity LP’s); The Dears not only maintain their extraordinary unique sound; but have enabled it to be appreciated from the outset. Furthermore, early The Dears fans should not be dismayed by this for Lovers Rock is still at its best when listened to from start to finish in the synchronised order the band curated.