The same thing always happens with me and the Dears' records. After the first few listens of really trying to like the music, I'll decide it's nothing but a boring Blur derivative that people are giving way too much credit to. But then I'll see the band live, and lead Dear Murray Lightburn's charisma will be at the center of a great show, and I'll leave thinking the band's amazing. And my impression of the record is reversed.
I went through this same process with Gang of Losers. The album sounds a lot like the Dears' other albums: full of '90s Brit-pop references and of Lightburn's rather bleak lyrics. The album's highlight is "Whites Only Party," which sees the "gang" break away from the rock-oriented arrangements and take a bouncy, acoustic approach. Lightburn's voice lends itself well to that stripped-down sound, and I'd like to see the band head down this direction. The temperamental opener, "Ticket to Immorality," is another highlight; it gets a bit rock-anthem-esque and attempts to set a tempo of urgency.
But the Dears really do sound a lot like late-'90s Blur -- that self-titled album from 1997, the one with "Song 2" on it. It's hard to imagine that this was intentional. But maybe some strings here and there, more pop as opposed to rock, or more piano-driven ballads like "I Fell Deep" could shake things up.
The real surprise is that the band isn't bigger than it already is. If Snow Patrol can make it big by regurgitating, surely a more talented lyricist in Lightburn could (and should) propel the Dears into bigger, more expensive tour buses. Gang of Losers could be a step in that direction, but it likely isn't.
"Ticket to Immortality" video: http://www.arts-crafts.ca/media.phpAudio: http://www.myspace.com/thedears