I’ve always kept a cursory eye on emerging Canadian musical talent thanks to an inordinate amount of time spent during my formative years listening to Rush in their pomp. I was therefore delighted when the very fine Montreal indie-prog trio Plants and Animals appeared on my radar last summer, courtesy of their splendid album ‘Waltzed in from the Rumbling’, prompting an eagerness to witness how their brooding wall of sound came across in the live venue, particularly with them visiting Leeds' Brudenell. What was equally baffling was that fellow Canadians and headline act The Dears had completely passed me by up until this point.
Alas the Brudenell was pretty sparsely populated when Warren Spicer (Vocals/Guitar), Nicolas Basque (Guitar/Keys) and Matthew Woodley (Drums) appeared, their live line-up augmented by a bass player as they launched into their elaborate new album opener ‘We Were One’. Being on the undercard the band’s set was alas somewhat truncated, limited to only eight songs and not surprisingly dominated by ‘Rumbling’, the splendidly earnest groove of ‘No Worries Gonna Find Us’ being the pick of their new material shared this evening. We were however treated to the brooding urgency of ’Good Friends’ from debut album ‘Parc Avenue’ and the set closed with the anthemic ‘Light Show’ from ‘The End of That’. Every number sounded sharp and full-on, showcasing the band’s elaborate song structures without any of them outstaying their welcome. Naturally their departure left me wanting more, exactly what every gig should achieve, also confirming the fact that these guys should be far better known on these shores than they currently are. With only a handful of previous UK shows under their belt before this tour, the most recent being some six years ago, they had a lot of catching up to do and it was so worth it.
Murray Lightburn’s ‘The Dears’, creators of painstakingly crafted tunes for more than two decades, opened with a brace from the quintet’s current long player ‘Times Infinity Volume 1’ hitting the spot from bar one with the now full venue audience, particularly the funky shuffle of ‘I Used to Pray for the Heavens to Fall’. I actually recognised the excellent downbeat bar-room stomp of ‘Whites Only Party’ a song that should be blasted all over North American radio at the moment given the current state of affairs. The glorious new wave tinged ‘5 Chords’ also provided a classic illustration of the bands versatility, a wonderful slice of pure pop, contrasting with their more sombre material.
Talking of which ‘Times Infinity’ includes an earlier Dears’ song title reprised, namely ‘Here’s to the Death of All Romance’, an update from the 2003 version ’22: The Death of All Romance’, perhaps a recurring theme for Mr Lightburn with both versions being played tonight, the earlier version closing the encore, one of two numbers featuring keyboardist Mrs Lightburn’s soothing vocals taking the lead, the other being main set finale ‘Onward and Downward’.
Murray appeared alone at the start of the four song encore for a beautifully intimate acoustic version of ‘Lights Off’, the audience then lending their support in an acapella version of ‘There Goes My Outfit’, clearly much more familiar with the stellar material than yours truly, creating an almost palpable rapport before his band mates re-joined for the final couple of songs.
Apparently ‘Times Infinity Volume 2’ is released in the summer; these guys have songs coming out of their ears, always a good sign. Another great find.
Words - Mike Price