Thank You Good Night Sold Out
t shouldn’t be surprising that new listeners are generally not a consideration when it comes to live albums. Unless it’s already canonized by fans as a classic the chances that someone will be introduced to a band via a live album are not terribly good, which leaves you with pleasing already existing followers. More specifically, the ones who aren’t so slavish in their devotion that they’ll pick up anything the band in question puts out sound unheard.
Montreal’s debonairly devastated and noisily pop outfit the Dears have graced us with a live album, but how well are those of us between the extremes of loyalty and inexperience served by the lengthy Thank You Good Night Sold Out? Not so well as to cause genuine excitement, but there’s also little reason for complaint and two stunning deviations from the norm.
But first, the other six tracks, the selection for which seems a bit off. “C’etait Pour La Passion” and “End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story” are both excellent choices to represent their first album, but last year’s strong but flawed No Cities Left gets five tracks to End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story’s two. That the later effort gets more space isn’t surprising, but which parts of that album are here is: There’s no quibbling with “Lost In The Plot”, but one can’t help wishing stronger songs than “Who Are You, Defenders Of The Universe?” and “22: The Death Of All The Romance” were chosen. The set list provided inside the album indicates that they played “We Can Have It” that night, which should have been a shoe-in, and it’s truly a shame they didn’t include the epic “Expect The Worst/’Cos She’s A Tourist”.
A post from the Dears’ message board that accompanies that list explains that frontman Murray Lightburn and most of the band were pretty drunk during the show. To their credit, this never feels sloppy; Lightburn occasionally gives line readings that are curiously flat in their affect, but always in places where it suits the song (the narcotized “Warm And Sunny Days” in particular). The performances, surprising considering their state, hew closely to the album versions. And, in that way, the group does adequately.
If not for the other two tracks, which together take up a whopping thirty-four minutes of the running time here, it would be easier to be content with that. The show opens with a doubled-in-length version of Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique EP track “Autonomy” that skillfully shows off both sides of the band’s sound, going from beautifully restrained heartache (Lightburn wailing “You’ve got my soul, I’ve got your heart”) before erupting into a raucous coda highlighted by Lightburn’s spectral howl some backgrounded cello in addition to the de rigeur whiteout guitars. “Autonomy” is also a good song, but this is a great performance.
Even that pales in comparison with the closing track here, though. Seeing that No Cities Left’s monstrously warped soul lament “Pinned Together, Falling Apart” has here been extended to twenty-two and a half minutes, you might fear extreme tediousness. But don’t; the actual song doesn’t begin until the last six minutes of the track, the trashy initial minute on record here replaced by fifteen wherein the band stomps through the music to astounding effect. It’s not a jam, not quite (it’s a bit too controlled for that), but it somehow never wears out its welcome. The mournful cellos and plodding bass give an air of approaching menace, and then every so often a guitar comes along and rips a hole in the air, just for fun. And when they do get to the song, it’s even better than it was on record, a hymn to denial that ends with Lightburn seeing just how loudly he can wail the word “no”.
Those two tracks alone make Thank you Good Night Sold Out worth a listen for fans who don’t mind the Dears’ noisier side. If the six songs in between had only been as startling and as enjoyable, we might have been able to start canonizing another classic live album.