Wednesday, December 2, 2009

#30. 'Don't mess with our love, our love is so much stronger'

The Dears "Lost in the Plot"

You want to know why, despite all the overwhelming similarities between them, Dears frontman Murray Lightburn isn't the black Morrissey, the black Stuart Murdoch or the black Neil Hannon? It's mostly because at his heart he's a simple romantic, not a mordant cynic, a slight naïf or an effete miser. None of the three obvious reference points for Lightburn's vocal style have his level of sheer romanticism, both in terms of lyrics and overall vocal cadence. I mean can you see Moz building a whole bridge out of a repeated mantra of 'Our love/don't mess with our love/our love is so much stronger'? Would Hannon be all but swooning as he sang a line like 'leave me in the middle of the ocean/I can walk the rest of the way'? Would Murdoch have as much power behind his voice as Lightburn gets during the final chorus? Lightburn may share a lot of common features with those three, but any attempt to pigeonhole him as a direct clone of any of them is ignoring too many of his qualities as both a vocalist and a songwriter.

"Lost in the Plot" is a love song, simple as that. It doesn't have layers of meaning or metaphors to sift through, it's just a love song and that's all it needs to be as far as I'm concerned. Few songs, let alone singles, released this decade get the simple art of the love song so right in so little time and so few words. Really, when you get down to it there's only two verses, a chorus and the 'our love' interlude; lyrically it's no longer than a 3rd grade book report but that's more than enough time for Lightburn to work out one hell of a song. Most of the romanticism comes from his vocals, especially the keening, and yes, quite Mozzish, croon of the verses, but the words themselves do paint enough of a picture to make the romance more obvious. As bare bones as they are, the lyrics do actually tell something of a story, a couple being separated by forces beyond their control but insistent that they can make it through the time apart, but without Lightburn's vocals to drive it home I doubt they'd be anywhere near as effective.

Of course there's also the band behind him to consider, and they do just as much to make the song work as Lightburn does. Once again, it's not like there's a lot of complex musical ideas being put forward, but what there is is played so passionately that it's hard to consider the lack of complexity a fault of any kind. It also just sounds totally romantic at most points, between Natasha Yanchak's organ textures and the upbeat guitars from Lightburn and co-guitarist Patrick Krief there's a sort of uplift going on musically even as the lyrics start going into the sadder moments. Outside of the uplift, there's plenty of straight instrumental hook throughout the song - Yanchak's keyboard riff over teh chorus, that triplet-syncopation in the guitars during the last minute of the track, Martin Pelland's bass line during the interlude - showing that the band are much more devoted to the art of composing a full on brilliant song than just letting Lightburn carry the whole works.

Put simply, "Lost in the Plot" is the kind of pop song that should be all over the place these days: passionately delivered, interestingly if not complexly arranged and catchy as hell without seeming to try too hard on any of those points. It may not be the best love song of the decade, but it's definitely one that deserves a lot more plaudits than it's gotten so far.

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