The Dears End of a Montreal success story?

The Dears End of a Montreal success story?
The Montreal Independent Music Initiative (MIMI) Awards – an annual celebration of the local music scene based on under-hyped people's choice – were held on March 4, offering the industry and press-packed crowd a few laughs, a few good performances and yet another look at Quebec's great language divide in action. Among the trophy winners were Franco-‘ip ‘op newcomers Loco Locass, who dedicated their Best Single award to "a sovereign Quebec." Nice.

Despite not winning any of the three awards they were nominated for (Best Pop Act, Album, Concert), it was a productive night for the Dears, arguably this city's most musically ambitious pop act. The six-piece showcased a brand new ballad, "Warm Sunny Days," providing a well-crafted, heartfelt interlude from the brash showiness of the evening. Of course, anyone who's seen the Dears live knows that showiness is typically front and centre in the form of singer/songwriter Murray Lightburn.

Without the tongue-in-cheekiness of Morrissey (an appropriate name to drop in this case), Lightburn's tortured lyrics and stage presence might provoke knee-jerk accusations of pretension, but the sheer talent and sincerity of this band has won over critics nationwide. The Dears' lofty pop debut, End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story (Grenadine Records), has been cited again and again as one of the top albums of 2000. Toronto's Eye Magazine pegged the band as "officially the best band in Canada," largely based on the live persona of their darkly lush, melodic, ‘60s pop-influenced sound.

Along with being in the national spotlight, an impending deal with England's Easy Tiger Records means international exposure is just around the corner. Despite all this, Lightburn's feelings about the band's future remain fatalistic.
"For our next album, we're building this monument that will perhaps be the last record for the Dears," said Lightburn. "Because of all the work that Natalia [Yanchak] and I do managing the band and the amount of effort we put into our live show…what's that saying? ‘The star that burns brightest…' [laughs]. You know what I mean, live fast, die young."

And what about the beautiful corpses? The chief obstacle to a long life for this act seems to be the band members' varied, yet all music-related career goals: Lightburn and Martin Pelland (bass) both compose film scores; George Donoso (drums) and Pelland collaborate on an act called Organics; Jonathan Cohen (guitar) is in a band called the Housemates; Yanchak (keyboards, vocals) is pursuing music journalism; and music academic Brigitte Mayes (cello) wants to teach.

All these dividing factors could form a path to self-destruction. Or not. But between the lines of this pessimistic drama is the hint that the next album will tower over the last.

"The old album was done for very little money, and we couldn't hire the fleet of musicians I wanted to hire," explained Lightburn. "What I heard in my head for the first record was not what ended up in the hands of the buying public. The more that actually winds up on the next record, the crazier it'll be. This time we might have a little bit more money and we don't care about squandering it all in one place because there may not be a tomorrow for us."

Deuxième Partie is the tentative title and September is the tentative release date for the next (last?) opus by this unique collective. Meanwhile, keep your eyes and ears open and embrace the Dears before they slip from our grasp.