From the get-go, the Dears’ End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story let’s you know where it gets its musical juice from. “C’Etait Pour La Passion” is Pulp all over. As dramatic as that. Pumped up on organ riffs and nasal vocals, the band recalls the bedroom longing of the Smiths dressed up in Stereolab drones, all arranged with a careful attention to sonic detail. With such an obvious anglophilia (with the obvious Gallic pulses of) the Dears are emblematic of a renewed pop sensibility amongst Montreal musicmakers. Yes, Montreal has got its share of dour humourless types (see Godspeed You Black Emperor), but this album will bring some cheer and hold us over until a full-length makes it way to us (or Bran Van 3000 releases a follow-up).
There’s much to “Hollywood Bedtime Story” that lends itself well to a repeated spin through the CD carousel. It’s still rough round the edges, a little chintzy at times, but a record that wears its shoddiness well. It dances around fey with a commendable restraint and never descends into cloying irony or lingers too long over self-loathing. “Where the World Begins and Ends” could be Francis Lai doing St. Etienne it’s that Euro-cool. The current single “Heartless Romantic” is a glorious tune. A marvel of lo-fi production, it’s a smart mix of boy-girl harmony and rightly muted distortion. The vocals are buried in such a way that only the backup singalong comes through. It’s the album’s centrepiece. It’s also a telling moment on the album, where obvious and upfront impresario Lightburn concedes that the rest of the band are worth showcasing as well (a far cry from the Morrissey/Marr axis that disowned the input of the Smiths’ other members).
It’s this kind of attention to etiquette that makes the Dears smart. Not too smart, but smart enough. Not above it all, but down here with us bruised and battered types, peering at things romantic at an appropriately oblique angle. Sure it’s a little loose at points, but ...Bedtime Story never comes across as pretentious,too arty or distant. It’s warm and fuzzy sentiments are dipped in an occasionally simmering hot stew of burned out romances seasoned with melancholy. Just right for the February blahs.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.