Let’s start things off with this: The Dears are my favorite Canadian band still active today. Never mind the overnight success stories of fellow Montrealians The Arcade Fire and The Unicorns; The Dears have been together for what, almost ten years now, and have also released what is quite possibly one of the best Canadian album ever (save anything by Mr. Cohen), End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story. That record has had enormous influence on me personally and I cherish it like I do only a handful of records in the sea that is my music collection. I have seen them live numerous times and each show always reaffirms their title of ingenious hopeless-romantic stalwarts. So, now that I have my love for the band out of the way, I can go on to tell you from a complete and utterly biased point of view how good this record is.
Thank You Good Night Sold Out is not a substitute for seeing the band live but rather it serves as a portable Dears fix, unique from their albums in that, well, it sounds live. But that’s the thing, sounding live and being an accurate representation of what the band is really like live are two different things. Maybe it’s because I am always totally blown away every time I see them that my standards are too high, but to me, this record does not encapsulate the energy inherent in that experience. The recordings were culled from various shows in Toronto and Montreal, and while the band does a fine job with each and every song, I can’t help but think that people are getting a sterile Dears experience. The songs are incredible enough to stand up on their own, but without seeing Murray Lightburn create a group huddle near the front of the stage or watching the band totally freak during the final dizzyingly cascading moments of “22: The Death of All the Romance,” the grandiosity of spectacle is lost.
For those who have not seen the band live though, this record serves as an excellent primer. Songs like “Lost in the Plot” and “End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story” have become live staples and are included on this disc, however, there are only a scant eight tracks. Most of the songs are off of 2003’s No Cities Left and some of The Dears’ best material is missing here. If a couple more songs from other releases had been included, like the brilliant “Heartless Romantic,” Thank You Good Night Sold Out would have been spectacular. Instead, we get an eleven minute long version of “Autonomy” and over twenty-two minutes dedicated to “Pinned Together, Falling Apart” (which only takes up six minutes on No Cities Left). Watching The Dears create a wall of orchestral dissonance is incredible; hearing it every time one wants a live album fix is not.
Thank You Good Night Sold Out is a perfectly good live album; the only reason I may seem a bit hesitant in lavishing it with praise is because of the difference between what their live show is really like, and how it’s represented here. Either way, The Dears are a band that begs to be listened to live; their plaintive, romantic cabaret-pop is ideal in this setting. Watching them perform such personally affecting songs is a cathartic experience; hearing them on this release is almost just as good. If you’re ever lucky enough to see them live, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
/dec 15th 2004/