Lovers Rock by The Dears
I can finally feel/
The age coming up on us/
It hasn’t been entirely worthwhile
Who among us can’t relate right now? Heart Of An Animal has the feel of an HBO TV show theme song. It’s insistent, compelling, and just melodic enough with a Sergeant Pepper’s style middle eight. When we find them “at the bottom of a trash pile” there’s an ‘oof’ rather than a hard stop to transition to the next onslaught.
“A true crime happened here/better lay low ’til the coast clears/your mother weeps, your father cries out ‘why’ in the middle of the night/innocent but can’t prove it”
I Know What You’re Thinking And It’s Awful takes it one step further to sound like it’s describing the plot of an HBO show. Despite throwing around emotive words like ‘abomination’ it turns into a dissection of a relationship rather than a body: “I can’t forget it, I’m not over you.”
Instant Nightmare! has SFX and backing vox that cross between sirens, explosions and Space Invaders. Both voices share the mix for a steady, almost unsettling, insistence of terror. This is cut with a foul-mouthed take on Shakespeare: “I know you’re trying so hard to be or not to be a fuck-up.”
Is This What You Really Want is less gloomy and foreboding than its predecessors. That’s saying something when it starts out “Nobody wants to die but does anyone want to live another day going through the motions?” They may have been aiming for unsettling normality in the instrumentation. However, it comes across as somewhat pedestrian compared to the previous studies of foreboding.
The Worst In Us could be a low-key indie-pop hit. It largely eschews gloomy narratives for expressions of love: “this world has no chance against a pure full-blooded romance.” That is until the doom keyboard shift in tone. A falsetto joins in over discordant tones to insist “they’re never bringing out the worst in us.”
We hear a deeper register in Stille Lost, against an up-tempo beat. Free-form horns scramble over the top but never quite erase the sense that the repetition of “we’re lost and nobody gives a damn” remains an idea rather than a fully realized song.
No Place On Earth continues the sense of running out of steam, lacking the vibrancy and intrigue of the earlier tracks. Despite a funeral scene, there’s the haunting sense that we aren’t exploring the uncanny to the extent that The Handsome Family do. Maybe, we might all be getting a bit old for this imagery?
Play Dead seems to belie the darkness of its title. It starts out sounding like the optimistic final scene of a late 70s/early 80s movie when the protagonist walks out into the summer sun on a busy New York street and finally understands herself and her place in the world. That isn’t to be in this context, inevitably. “Take some time and you’ll recover” sounds promising. However, it’s quickly followed by “You may have suffered from the wrath of a god that wants to kill you”. Business as usual for The Dears, then.
Similarly, Too Many Wrongs has an old sound. The couple explores a failing relationship to the sound of a 70s shuffle.
The album ends on a higher note, with some interesting vocal work and, remarkably, even a positive message. Ready? “We’re leaving this place tonight/building a better future/it’s gonna be alright.”
Overall, Lovers Rock is an intriguing mix of anachronistic music with apocalyptic themes. All the while, valorising romance despite, and in defiance of, fate and disaster.
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