The Dears Rattle the Room

March 30th, 2011

The Dears – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 29, 2011

The tracks on the Dears’ fantastic new album, Degeneration Street, are a well-crafted set of post-prog songs anchored by the vocals and compositions of lead singer Murray Lightburn. Resting somewhere along the spectrum between the Super Furry Animals and TV on the Radio, the disc is a genre-melting fondue that reveals pleasant new flavors on each listen. Played live at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Tuesday night, the same songs revealed a hidden explosive quality, nearly every one finding room for a ragged-but-blistering guitar-bass-drums section that had the small, dedicated crowd warmed up and loose despite the off-season chill outside. So, what are these songs, well-crafted compositions or no-holds-barred explosions? The answer is a quantum mechanical both.

Taking the stage to “Love Me Tender” over the PA, Lightburn went falsetto accompanied by his own tambourine and a drum machine. This false sense of quiet evaporated into a vicious guitar jam with Patrick Krief taking his first of many, many impressive solos on his guitar. That tambourine got passed around like a proverbial conch during the set, showing a true democracy of sound behind Lightburn’s songwriting. Two or three guitars meshed with a keyboard, synthesizer or two while Robert Arquilla and Jeff Luciani pushed the energy on bass and drums.

After sandwiching in some older material, which Lightburn proclaimed “classics,” the set-closing “1854” was a highlight, featuring a room-rattling middle at which the studio version only hints. Playing loose for the small crowd of adherents remaining at the end, the encore was another miniset of more “ultraclassics,” plenty of storytelling by Lightburn, much professed love for his wife, keyboard player Natalia Yanchak, and an ample amount of ear-puncturing rock and roll. —A. Stein