8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Top pop album of 2004,
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?