Written by: Alex Green
“I hang out with all the pariahs,“ sings The Dears’ Murray Lightburn on “Ticket To Immortality” from the Canadian band’s new album Gang Of Losers.
While this is not a revelation—the growling Lightburn doesn’t seem the Pep Squad type—the startling news comes later in the song when he admits, “Everyone is almost done with me.” That being said, Gang Of Losers tackles the big algebra of finding out where we belong and the answer that Lightburn comes up with is: X=Nowhere. In other words, you can never be more stranded than when you’re accepted by any group at all. This might very well explain Lightburn’s gloomy discontent on tracks like the aching Smiths-influenced “There Goes My Outfit,” or the swirling prog rock of “Bandwagoneers.” But this sentiment is never more alive than on the grinding “Death Or Life We Want You,” which finds its subversive narrator saying, “Nobody wants you but we want you,” as he recruits the forlorn to be members of his misfit army.
While the first half of the album confronts the notion of inclusion, the second half seems more interested in the state of humanity. The falsetto-tinged “Fear Makes The World Go ‘Round,” or the ironic country of “Whites Only Party” seem to suggest that all is not well with the world and the latter hints that racism can only be obliterated by “a miracle.” It’s a devastating admission, but Lightburn is not one to shy away from scathing social commentary, like “Ballad of Humankindness” which is an incisive and brutal account of the lack of empathy in the modern world.
Lightburn’s phrasing and intonation may evince The Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie or even American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel, but his crushing melancholia is all his own. Loaded with a moody charisma, Lightburn is a sensitive malcontent, wounded by the coldness of modern society and empowered by an almost existential self-reliance.
“Try to break my heart” he dares on “Hate Then Love.”
Give it a shot.