The Dears have a lot in common with Arcade Fire. Both bands are from Montreal. Both are led by a husband-and-wife team. Both make powerful, emotional indie pop. And both are critics’ favorites. In other ways, the bands couldn’t be more different. Arcade Fire is childlike — both in their gleeful sing-alongs and in their lyrical concerns (dealing with parents, etc.). The Dears are adult — both in Murray Lightburn’s mournful, Thom Yorke–like singing, and in his lyrical concerns (being a parent, money troubles, racism, losing his religious faith).
The Dears formed in 1995, about eight years before Arcade Fire, four years before Broken Social Scene (with whom the Dears have shared members at one time or another), and three years before Metric. If it hadn’t been for some major lineup shakeups that set them back, the Dears might have been as famous as the other Canadians who dominate the indie world these days. More so, perhaps.
Despite their dramatic touches and heavy themes, Lightburn’s songs are relatively simple and accessible. Even the song “Whites Only Party,” from the 2006 album Gang of Losers, doesn’t hit you over the head with its hot-button topic. If you weren’t paying close attention, you might hear its shuffling beat and the line “We ain’t here to steal your women/ Well, at least that wasn’t the plan” and think this was a carefree party song. The band’s latest, Missiles, is mostly a more-somber affair, but the opening track, “Disclaimer,” has the kind of grandeur we associate with stadium-fillers like U2.
DEARS: The Casbah, Friday, May 22, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $14.