The Dear & Departed

Something Quite Peculiar

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A British/Australian/Kiwi quintet based in southern California, the Dear and Departed took the title of their debut album from a refrain in the Church's moody 1987 hit "Under the Milky Way," which they have a bash at towards the album's end. Might as well, since on some level, most of the 13 songs that precede the cover are merely a rewrite of Steve Kilbey's most popular tune. In retrospect, "Under the Milky Way" has turned out to be an unexpected touchstone of the pop side of emo: mopey lyrics made opaque by strained attempts at poesy, a catchy tune that's hampered somewhat by the terrible vocals, and an overall sense of self-importance that threatens to overshadow the song's undeniable charms. That's a fairly neat summation of the Dear and Departed's ballads, from the over-dramatic opener "And We Begin..." to the massively overblown climactic track "The Fireflies." On the other hand, sprinkled throughout the album is a handful of sharp, punchy punk-pop tunes that suggest a more fruitful new direction for the band to explore. In particular, the two songs surrounding "The Fireflies," "Are You Feeling Awkward Yet?" and "Running Against the Wind," find the Dear and Departed in a less po-faced and more emotionally direct style, and it suits them well.

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