The Dears were once trailblazers of the Canadian indie-rock renaissance, one of the founding fathers of the dark, dramatic guitar rock which has dominated the alternative music scene for the last ten years, culminating with Arcade Fire winning the 'Best Album' category at this year's Grammy Awards for the superb The Suburbs. Unfortunately, Degeneration Street sees The Dears fall even further behind their contemporaries. This is an album which displays neither the pompous pop majesty of Arcade Fire, nor the rebellious rambunctiousness of Broken Social Scene - nor the idiosyncratic weirdness of artists such as Spencer Krug. Instead, it appears that The Dears are set to become a band who helped lay the foundations of the Canadian music scene, whilst providing nothing of the sparkling decorative facade we see today.

Just a couple of tracks short of equalling the amount set down on The Suburbs, yet just as long, Degeneration Street feels unnecessarily long, and contains none of the sprawling narrative or recurring themes which The Suburbs achieved so fascinatingly. Without similar coherence the album as whole seems like a disjointed combination of conflicting sounds which seemingly lengthens the running time of this already drawn out album.

Songs such as 'Lamentation' and 'Galactic Tides' are undoubted highlights, borrowing from the sound of fellow Canadian prog-rockers The Besnard Lakes with Pink Floyd inspired instrumentalism of operatic proportions; towering vocals and soaring guitar solos. But too many times the album is let down by over elaborate production ('Blood'), unoriginality ('Thrones') and turgid lyricism ('Stick w/ Me Kid'). It's hard to get away with bad lyricism when the vocals are placed so high up on the mix leaving it vulnerable to unwavering criticism, you feel this album could have benefited from smudging a bit of Vaseline on the lens. The expressive capacity of the album is far too one-dimensional, there is no ambivalence of feeling or unnerving quality; each track sets out its stall from the first few seconds and leaves you with no doubt about the emotional outcome of the next three or four minutes.

That could be the main problem with Degeneration Street; it's too obvious and far too shiny. Any woozy, dreamy potential the album once withheld is hastily polished and the potential escapism of the album becomes sterilised. Where you may have been yearning for something unflinchingly real, or abstractedly ethereal, Degeneration Street leaves you in some kind of limbo. Neither scuzzy back-alley nor kaleidoscopic heaven, The Dears have created the equivalent of office party banality. There is no potential of danger where there is no edge, but where's the fun in that?

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