Originally released on: Missiles (October 20, 2008)
Just speak the words, ‘been down here from up above’…
My good buddy Adam has dramatically revamped his blogging presence these past couple of months and is currently running through his own entertaining year-end countdown at History Happens at Night. While our tastes share some crossover, we come at music from very different backgrounds and often have good fun bickering back and forth about, say, the merits of post-OK Computer Radiohead or Chinese Democracy.
Where we might agree, I think, is that often the best pop music is bold and big, and swings not for the very cheapest of the cheap seats. And that’s one of the reason why I’ve always had a soft spot for hyper-romance as a musical motif, because what it lacks in gritty realism it makes up for in sheer ambition (either sonic or rhetorical).
To that end, I’ve come to view Montreal’s Stars and the Dears as two sides of a similar coin. Both present views of politics and love that are brash, unashamedly passionate and subtle as a sledgehammer, but they too come from very different perspectives. Stars, who I had the pleasure of seeing twice this year, choose to venture off into various realms of indie pop. The Dears, in contrast, have a proggy foundation that can sometimes be their greatest asset and their greatest weakness.
On “Meltdown in A Major,” it’s certainly an asset. The band wisely avoids overstuffing the song, letting its cascading keyboard and Murray Lightburn’s smoky voice hold down the fort at first before growing into a full synth-driven ballad. While some might be expecting the song to explode at some point, the fact that it holds back is, to me, its greatest charm. On past Dears’ records the band would be desperate to rock out, to blast the eardrums off with a wall of distortion. But here, the slow decent into noise feels a better fit for a hyper-romance more insular and reflective. The song’s progression is so effective that this is the one track that I’ve barely touched in Why So Serious, choosing only to blur its outro into the song that follows.
What’s more, there’s an interesting juxtaposition between the certainty of the outro lyric – “even though people think you’re wrong / I know you’re onto something” – with the lack of sonic footing. It’s as if our subject is repeating it ad nauseam because if he doesn’t, it suddenly won’t be true; his certainty will have faded into the wall of noise behind him and his makeshift faith will have been torn apart again.