Melodramatic? At times. Over the top? Maybe a bit. But that shouldn't detract from what is a solid indie rock album from Montreal's The Dears. "Degeneration Street" is the self-described art rock band's fifth full length release, and first in three years. I've seen this album praised and I've seen it trashed. Are there pretentious moments? Sure, but that doesn't stop people from heaping praise on the overly pretentious (and over-hyped) likes of Arcade Fire.
Frontman Murray Lightburn drips the 14 tracks here with a lot of drama and bombast, but the songs still work for me as a whole. The album may want for a little more lyrical depth, but the melodic rock in play here grabs you into the murky storyline. Opener "Omega Dog" draws you instantly in with a catchy guitar riff and Lightburn's falsetto vocals. The song goes for an all out cinematic assault in its final two minutes as layer upon layer of sound builds into a crescendo. "Lamentation" offers some of the slower moments on the album, with a sad melody, but it also bursts into wailing guitars, bashing drums and Lightburn's screams about half way through.
Other favorites include the smoldering "Tiny Man", the fairly restrained harmonies of "Unsung" and the jangling guitars of "5 Chords". But the highlight here is the orchestral rock madness of "Thrones". The verses are rather laid back with Lightburn's vocals over some drums and guitar, but the choruses are greeted with his screams of "We can't go through this again!" before everything but the kitchen sink joins in to create a joyous noise.
"Degeneration Street" surely won't be for everyone, as the mixed reviews will attest to. But for someone who likes some good drama and melody with their rock, this will do the trick. There's a lot here to digest, and sometimes The Dears over-reach, but as a whole a very welcome addition to my favorite music of 2011.
"Degeneration Street" was released in the U.S. February 15, 2011 on Dangerbird Records.