Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Degeneration Street Review

Degeneration Street, The Dears fifth studio outing, is an album you've heard countless times before. During the congested fifty-nine minutes that compose the record, the group chooses from a grab-bag of genres, varying between bits and pieces of arena-rock, to anthemic indie jams, and even the occasional toe tapping pop tune. While this range of sound would be hard to pull off by even the craftiest of artists, it's the disregard for any sort of flow that presents Degeneration Street as disjointed and unorganized. This lack of focus is fairly strange when one takes a look at the group's 2008 release, Missiles, on which they created a concentrated atmosphere of dismal and somber futures. Fast-forward two years and you find a band that has somehow lost a voice of their own, and have dove head-first into a muddied pool of genre clich├ęs and songwriting barren of any real inspiration. Degeneration Street is what you get when you scrape the floating remains of a dozen other records off the top of that pool. 

Though, credit where credit is due, Degeneration Street begins in a deceivingly great way. "Omega Dog" is, hypothetically speaking, what the entirety of the record could have been had there been any sort of consistency with its sound. Every bit of this song works together in a wonderful assembly of what went right with the band's previous effort. The screaming guitar at the end, the hushed intensity of the violins during the build up to the crescendo and the equally boisterous drumming all lend each other to Murray Lightburn's charming falsetto. Had the record followed this path in even a few more songs, it would have made it immensely more successful - however, just as track two begins, we're introduced to another band. The undeniably Arcade Fire influenced "5 Chords" screams everything about this record that needs to be said. From the out of the blue tonal shift from track one, to the contrived rising and falling from verse to chorus, The Dears kill the success of track one and begin to bury it with each track from there onward. 

From sightings of Radiohead and The Killers, to frequent glimpses of TV On The Radio, it's simple to see what went wrong with Degeneration Street. In a record riddled with repeated chorus after repeated chorus, paired with the unused sheet music of every prominent indie artist in the scene, The Dears anchor themselves to the bottom of the indie scene where they could be swimming victoriously. For every nearly impressive moment that they pull off, there is another uninspired shot at success that drags it down by the ankles. 

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