The Dears - Gang of Losers
It's the age old question, how to follow up a critically acclaimed album? For The Dears, that time is now. Breaking through with 2004's "No Cities Left", a swirling Brit-influenced album full of the joys of Britpop and the sorrows of Morrissey, they captured the imagination - dragging you kicking and screaming into their dark and heavily layered world. "Gang of Losers" however, is a very different beast. Instead of treading the same paths created by "No Cities Left", they've found a different road, a larger more mainstream highway full of rapturous choruses and catchy guitar riffs. Unfortunately this isn't what The Dears originally sold us.
Sure, it's not a bad album, but it's missing the breadth of vision encountered previously, even the subject matter of the songs seems banal in places (see "There Goes My Outfit"). They've traded their dark, dense songs for the "big sound", epic production found on Embrace, Coldplay and Keane. We have nifty guitar riffs and Murray Lightburn's (still) fantastic voice rollicking along at a fair old pace, but it lacks the heart and emotional depth that won them their fans originally.
Take the recent single "Ticket To Immorality"; it's indie music by numbers with a chunky guitar riff, jaunty rhythm section and rousing chorus... but it doesn't sound any different to all the hosts of other indie guitar bands out there. Comparing this to "Lost The Plot" from "No Cities Left" is like comparing Girls Aloud to Radiohead. The difference is amazing; no emotional connection, no depth, nothing to capture the imagination. "Whites Only Party" sees them taking a few pages out of The Decemberists notepad, a little ditty of a song that's obviously about racism but fails to connect, fails to make you give a damn about the topic at all. The album quickly becomes forgettable, it'll wash over you in it's forty-odd minutes and you'll come away with nothing memorable from the experience. Only "Find Our Way To Freedom" captures anything like the genius found on their previous album; its dark, gothic, neo-jazz ending echoing Nick Cave's brilliance and reminding you that there's still something about The Dears that's worth waiting for, worth listening to.
For a band to change direction takes a certain amount of courage and it can either work for them or count against them. I can only think that, in this case at least, it's going to do a bit of both; longer standing fans will attack them for selling out and new fans will be caught up in their Radio 2 friendly jaunts that'll probably see them making buckets of cash and selling out stadiums across the globe. Thinking about it, "Gang Of Losers"? Certainly doesn't look like it from here...