Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak are a formidable pair. Together, they have fronted The Dears for over 20 years, and have built a reputation for being an intense live band, as well as issuing a series of highly-regarded albums. With Times Infinity Volume Two, they have delivered on their promise to follow up the excellent first volume by Summer. Quite how long you have waited for the second instalment depends on where you live – Times Infinity Volume One has already been out for a good couple of years in the USA and their native Canada, but European fans only received it as recently as February this year.
Lightburn and Yanchak have acknowledged that this second volume is the “darker half” of the Times Infinity release, and a quick check of the song titles bears this out: ‘Taking It To The Grave’, ‘Until Deathrow’ and ‘I’m Sorry That I Wished You Dead’ give a flavour of the album’s subject matter. However, this record is no kind of gloom-fest; rather it is a lean and powerful beast, uplifting and not a moment wasted. Splitting the album in two has been a smart move; it lends the work a keen focus that might have been lacking had it been a 20-track double LP.
‘Taking It To The Grave’ begins the record and it is Yanchak’s voice to the fore as Lightburn adds backing vocals to a track that builds from a simple synth motif into a beautifully orchestrated piece that gathers sonic momentum as it goes – it’s an effective opener and sets the bar high. ‘All The Hail Marys’ was apparently the working title for the album, and is a stunningly soulful track with more dramatic yet simple production, while lead single ‘Of Fisticuffs’ has a curiously ‘old English’ title for a Canadian band to use. There have always been British influences in The Dears’ music, but ironically the track sounds like a cross between Afghan Whigs and, well, The Dears. It’s a brilliantly restless groove that will hopefully be a treat when the band return for more UK dates in October.
‘1998’ takes things off in a far sunnier, more upbeat direction, with its refrain “This is being alive”, before ‘Until Deathrow’ takes things down again; it combines a stately pace with squelchy keyboards and empathetic strings, which are used brilliantly throughout the album.
‘Guns and Knives’, meanwhile, is a huge anthem and is potentially the centrepiece of the record, showcasing Lightburn’s wonderful way around a lyric: “Should I be bringing guns or knives / To this fight for our lives / Or should I come in peace?”. ‘I’m Sorry That I Wished You Dead’, meanwhile shows The Dears’ sometimes overlooked humour – a deliberately glum song title to mask a much lighter track. “I’m not sick / I’m just tired of you / So I’m going home” sings Yanchak over a sprightly orchestral backing.
Almost-title-track ‘I Love You Times Infinity’ is a subtle grower, while closer ‘End Of Tour’, apparently about the end of the band’s 2006 UK Tour, has an understated guitar riff and Yanchak’s subtle backing vocals and is a sweet end to the record.
When all’s said and done, it could just be that the two Times Infinity records are considered The Dears’ best work. …Volume Two is another triumph.
Times Infinity Volume Two is released by Dangerbird Records on July 14th 2017.