The Dears are playing a punishment: reward set.
As front-man Murray Lightburn explains, it’s a piece of pop psychology that sees the Canadian quintet play tracks from new album Times Infinity Volume One interspersed with old favourites.
In truth it’s something of a misnomer to call it new: their sixth record has simply secured a UK release 18-months after it initially appeared in other markets. This delay isn’t what would have been expected from them around the release of No Cities Left, when they were hyped as the band most likely to have a commercial breakthrough.
In the years between they’ve seen the similarly minded Arcade Fire and Bloc Party eclipse their fame. Yet while the crossover hit may have eluded them they’ve retained a strong following that their emotional music seems to demand.
Over nearly 20-years they’ve finely tuned their sweeping, post-rock grandeur. ’22: The Death Of All Romance’ is all pounding drums and lovelorn lyrics while ‘Disclaimer’ takes a pretty, circular guitar line that steadily gains intensity. Elsewhere they prove their genre-hopping credentials by turning math-rock into Afrobeat on ‘I Used To Pray For The Heavens To Fall’ and country-rock on ‘Whites Only Party’.
Lightburn has the dramatics to match such musical drama. Passionate throughout, with vocals to match Morrissey with a bigger set of lungs, he clambers into the audience for ‘Hate Then Love’. Yowling out “we’ll find our place in the world,” he captures the darkly romantic loneliness within the music but also the hope that’s at their very heart.
These are songs and dramatics with such grand designs they should be heard in a stadium. In being a well-kept secret, however, they maintain the intimacy to which they’re held dear.