[Rating: 4 stars]
The guys (and gal) in The Dears must be especially good with names, because after going through so many lineup changes over the years things would have to get a little confusing. Despite so many shifts in the band’s genetic make-up, Degeneration Street, the Montreal rock band’s fifth record, sounds like it was made by a band who’d played together their entire lives. Opening track “Omega Dog” saunters in with crisp drums, fuzzy guitar stabs and Murray Lightburn’s unmistakable falsetto, all blending into a tune that manages to haunt, groove and brood all at the same time. Lightburn is often compared to Morrissey, and on softer tracks like “Galactic” and “Tiny Man” those similarities especially shine through. “5 Chords” is equal parts Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Blur with the Dears’ trademark stamped all over it, while “Lamentation” shows that Lightburn could just as easily channel Sam Cooke as he does Thom Yorke (his father, notably, was a jazz musician-turned-preacher). The instrumentation on the record is tight, complex, and could stand on its own, managing to stand out while never overpowering Lightburn’s vocals or getting too flashy. Twelve members and five records in and the Dears have made their best album yet– Degeneration Street is one of the rock albums to live up to in 2011.