A genuine rarity: The Dears frontman's solo debut sounds like a defiantly broadened vision rather than more of the same plus hired hands. A proper recorded-at-home DIY undertaking, it swaps his band's sculpted, elegant indie for lo-fi electro. Crucially, these are not band leftovers: there's the distinct impression, for once, that Murray Lightburn wrote the songs that comprise Mass:Light for Mass:Light alone.

You'll recognise the voice (consistently underrated, expressive, soulful) and the tone (as ever, Lightburn's lyrics mask a difficult to finger unease) but the setting is a new adventure entirely. There are echoes of the downbeat synth stylings of the Missiles album (The Dears' 2008 dismantling of their guitar-led sound) but it's smarter by far, never succumbing to the darker introspection that fed that fascinating but ultimately lost record.

A labour of love (Lightburn screen printed the vinyl himself) that deserves mainstream recognition, it illuminates sharply both the maturing worldview and methodology of the leader of a (still) underrated outft. 'Motherfuckers ' is irresistible and unapologetic pop, its bleak observations ("those motherfuckers gonna bury our heads") riding a soaring hook. Instrumental 'From Dreams' is a wide screen wonder, church organ opening, sequencing and layered synths referencing the screen work of Pino Donaggio. Epic closer 'In Pieces', a drawn out fugue, best illuminates Lightburn's propensity for quietly railing at an ugly, fractured world ("I fucked my way to you, and that's the only truth...") while at the same time exposing something altogether more uncomfortably intimate.

It's a duality that's starting to define him as an artist. Ever troubled but ever eloquent, Murray Lightburn ensures his solo vehicle serves him beyond mere indulgence or vanity. As The Dears hatch plans for a new album, their leader's striving keeps them on their toes. Mass:Light could well be his finest hour.



out of 10

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