For all of the adulatory reviews and blogosphere buzz generated by The Dears’ 2003 breakthrough No Cities Left, the overwrought theatricality, bloated track length, and emotional redundancy made the record one more suited for admiration than enjoyment. Billed as a gripping collection of songs torn from the depths of the human soul, it was hard to truly dig into what the velvet-voiced Murray Lightburn and crew had wrought. Not so with the luminous, less forced Gang Of Losers, the Canadian astral pop export’s third full-length album and one that’s bathed in the warm glow of ever-so-slightly heightened expectations. If the sextet was feeling any pressure from its splashy Stateside debut, you wouldn’t know it from these concise, slick cuts, burnished to smoky perfection. Many critics pegged Lightburn as a pretender to the Morrissey throne and it was an apt comparison, as well as an affectation that dragged down the scant few compelling tracks on No Cities Left, but, having dialed down the Mozzery, Lightburn delivers potent turns on “There Goes My Outfit,” “Bandwagoneers,” and “Ticket To Immortality,” nestling comfortably within the dense, reassuring thicket of instrumentation. Some bands make a bigger statement when few are looking; not nearly as many eyes are trained on The Dears in 2006, which is a shame—they’ll miss this sturdy collection of barely contained alienation, one of the year’s more understated and beautifully paranoid gems.
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