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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The similarity is there, but ...., 12 Oct 2004
By 
H. NEILL (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: No Cities Left (Audio CD)
All I knew about The Dears in advance of buying this CD was that they owed a major debt to the Smiths. That combined with the fairly positive media hype around the band pushed me to take a chance and believe me, it was well worth it. No Cities Left is musically and lyrically indebted to Morrisey rather than The Smiths, with the vocals sometimes uncannily similar. Morrisey's vocal style and delivery are aped more than the lyrical side of the great man's canon, but this is by no means a bad thing. Musically, the songwriting and musicianship are strong the record washes over you in waves, rather than picking you up and carrying you. A definite grower, with oodles of emotion and enough interesting stuff going on in the mix to keep your attention. This album is a tribute to the Smiths rather than a Smiths tribute album.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine debut, from the Anglophile gloom-merchants., 6 July 2005
This review is from: No Cities Left (Audio CD)
I first heard about The Dears towards the end of 2004, with many people complimenting the apparent references to British indie-acts like Blur and The Smiths. I must admit, these allusions threw me a little when I first heard the album in December, with such comparisons rarely stretching beyond the odd vocal flourish, or the occasional, literary, lyrical couplet, littered sporadically throughout the album... with the whole notion of a Blur meets the Smiths style Britpop record (as suggested by other critics) really seeming as forced and as churlish as those constant Interpol/Joy Division comparisons. Instead, The Dears possess a sound that is partly influenced by the sound of classic British 80's and 90's indie-pop groups... but with further references to more contemporary acts like The Killers, Bloc Party, etc.
As an album, No Cities Left has an epic, cinematic sound that is both sparse and desolate, but with a sense of prevailing hope to undercut the existing claustrophobia. There are acoustic guitars, pianos, organs and synths, all layered alongside a flourish of romantic strings and a pounding percussion that brings to mind the recording skills of Steve Albini... which creates a great sound that can go from ugly to beautiful (and sometimes back again!) all within a single moment. As a result, the musical arrangements practically soar in some places, particularly on the opening track We Can Have It, in which the great performance and arrangement of the band perfectly compliments the crooning, lovesick lyrics of lead-singer/producer/performer, Murray A. Lightburn.
Many of the songs extend past the four-minute mark (which is the clearest indication that this act aren't really that similar to Britpop), giving the band a further tinge of the progressive, with certain moments of synthesiser experimentation or the long keyboard notes of fellow member Natalia Yanchak (who also supplies some strong backing/counter vocals) bringing to mind certain elements of Pink Floyd (particularly their mid-70's rock period of albums like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals). For me, the spirit of Pink Floyd is much more apparent here, with the music, for the most part, sounding dark and bleak (as evident from that bizarre and desolate cover art), with only the occasional horn or string arrangement or Lightburn's evocative, yearning lyrics to undercut the gloom.
My personal favourite tracks are the opening, the abovementioned We Can Have It, as well as the single, Lost in the Plot (which had the astounding b-side Heartless Romantic... proof that this band are capable of much, much more!!), Warm and Sunny Days and the excellent 22: the Death of All the Romance (...my very favourite song on the album and the one that is, admittedly, closest to the style of The Smiths, Blur, Pulp, The Divine Comedy, etc). All in all, this is a fine debut album from a promising band... there' certainly a lot here to admire and a definite sound that will hopefully progress on their obligatory follow up album. Definitely one to watch...
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A symphonic Blur, 8 Nov 2004
By 
slujet (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: No Cities Left (Audio CD)
I bought No Cities Left after going to see The Dears live, which I strongly recommend you do if they come by your way. A self-confessed devotee of British music, singer Murray Lightburn's delivery alternates between Messrs. Albarn and Morrisey, but stops short of sounding like a poor imitation of either one. Similarly, the album contains several songs that could easily be attributed to Blur ("Warm And Sunny Days") or Morrisey ("Don't Lose The Faith") or both (current single "Lost In The Plot"). Elsewhere, there are hints of Spiritualized ("We Can Have It"), Tindersticks ("Who Are You...?", "22"), and Virgin Suicides-era Air ("Never Destroy Us", "Postcard From Purgatory"). Although never quite capturing the raw charisma and musicianship of the live show, No Cities Left is wonderfully produced (think Love's Forever Changes) and musically bold, and is a must for anyone with a taste for symphonic rock/pop with a darker edge.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top pop album of 2004, 18 Jan 2005
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: No Cities Left (Audio CD)
The Smiths comparisons have left me mystified. The Dears No Cities Left is glossy symphonic pop, having more in common with bands like The Wondermints, Soundtrack of Our Lives or Death Cab for Cutie. The odd song does resonate with echoes of Morrissey/Marr, "Don't lose the faith" is very Smith like in its strum able verse and the occasional lyrical couplet brings to mind some of Morrissey's epigrams but that's about it. Maybe my middle aged mind is hazy ,but I don't recall The Smiths using choral vocal effects_"Expect the worst/Cos she's a Tourist"- wheezing sax solo's -"The Second Part" - or more synthesizers than you'd find at a Human League garage sale -just about every song.
Putting that aside, this is a hugely entertaining and enjoyable album. The quality of the song writing is superb as is the production and the densely layered arrangements, all the work of lead singer Murray A Lightburn. There's traces of old time swing in the brass on "Expect the worst/Cos she's a Tourist". The magnificent "Lost in the Plot" sees him really flex his vocal chords and has a gleaming punkish edge. "Pinned together, Falling Apart" has a flourishing orchestral glow reminiscent of the Tindersticks. "Never destroy us" pirouettes round a giddy jazz melody that wouldn't sound out of place on a Zappa track. First track "We can have it" builds and builds like cross between Abba and God Speed you Black Emperor while "Who are you, Defenders of the Universe" has tangled thickets of guitars that never overwhelm the songs melodic verve. "Postcard from Purgatory" centres on a dubbed up bass line before exploding like Jethro Tull mixed up with Megadeth. Conventional it aint. "Warm and Sunny Days" is an aptly named glowing mellifluous pop nugget.
Not everything on this album is so appealing in its giddy desire to propel you to pop nirvana. "The death of all Romance" is a messy duet and for most of it's duration of 5.23 minutes the tile track is a jarring take on speed freak E.L.O. but the last 40 seconds is a lovely vocal warm bath of sound. And while I'm in picky mode "Postcard from Purgatory "is around a minute too long.
In terms of pure all out pop swagger and totally committed pop sensibility this is the best album of the year. The sheer depth, variety and imagination behind No Cities Left are hugely impressive. Its pop music with the blinkers off and The Dears can be forgiven for occasionally brushing the railings. Who knows what they are capable of if they are really allowed to stretch their legs?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Choice, 7 Dec 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: No Cities Left (Audio CD)
I Must say that only now have I come across the Smiths comparison. Never thought of that actually. My first impressions of The Dears was a reminder of Pulp, Suede and even Flannelmouth. This truly is a wonderful album and I agree with the other reviews that the album is a full of emotion. It is also a grower. I like it indeed.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wise Choice, 7 Dec 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: No Cities Left (Audio CD)
I must say that only now have I come across the Smiths comparison. I was quickly reminded of Pulp, Suede and even Flannelmouth in terms of my first impressions of the band. This truly is a wonderful album and I agree with the other reviews that the emotional scope of the album is far reaching. It is also a grower and I like it very much indeed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did you say "Debut"?, 1 Sep 2006
This review is from: No Cities Left (Audio CD)
Try again, mate.

It is a fine record, though. You got that right.

They're nice boys. We opened for them once and promptly retired. Why continue when they did it?
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