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Oh Dear

Oh Dear

by Roger Young / 17.07.2009

Why do Dear Reader inspire such deep indifference in me? The album Replace Why With Funny is like listening to what Soko would have sounded like had she recorded a studio album, but with all the early Lilly Allen taken out. Maybe it’s not entirely their fault, they’re just commenting about the cultural paradigm they exist in. Maybe it’s the name that implies there is something there to read. Maybe it’s because of the patronizing endearments. Maybe it’s because there seems to be nothing to latch onto in the music, that it’s all so chug-along backgroundy. Maybe it’s because they’re just such a maybe band.

I am still searching for the sentence where I can actually replace Why with Funny, without having to replace at least one other word. This is how I feel about the substance of the songs. They seem clever on the surface, but if you actually listen there is very little there and they fall apart. Dear Reader seem content with pretending to be clever about having nothing to say about being mildly dissatisfied. Maybe it’s this that earns them their fan base, this mild flirtation with all the tenants of hipness, an appropriation of style not substance.

Replace Why With Funny is slickly produced, Cherilyn MacNeil has a beautifully cute voice, the CD sleeve is appropriately quirky, somehow somewhere all this promise doesn’t cross the gap where meaning and music create a greater whole. There is no imparting of a sense of humor, insight or any real emotion.

On “Way of the World” we find out that people have to sit in traffic and, guess what, “that’s the way of the world.” Really? Wow! On “What We Wanted” we learn that one of the protagonists “feels like I’m doomed to be always thinking and always confused “ because she has “said less and less of the things she felt inside” and that “what we wanted and what we need are not always agreed”. All the strumming, harmonica and swelling choir cannot make it more than suburban Prozac philosophy. And maybe that’s why they are popular.

Dear Reader seem to have all the elements in place to be a great pop act, but somehow they end up being merely good.  Which is probably the reason that I can’t seem to feel anything about them at all.

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  1. Tara says:

    “Why is there so much happening in Durban at the same time!?!?”
    “Funny is there so much happening in Durban at the same time!?!?”

    I dont know? Does this work?

    (To tell the truth its actually “Funny – there is so much happening in Durban at the same time!!!”)

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  2. WordWallah says:

    You’re why.
    You’re funny.


    Are you why?
    Are you funny?

    That’s all that I can think of that makes even vague grammatical sense.

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  3. Ross says:

    Roger my china, i know this is an album review, but you have to see them live – they are in my extremely over critical opinion the best band to have surfaced in this country in any genre bar none! I don’t like the title either..

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  4. Nathan Zeno says:

    Ross, My China. I have seen them live twice in the last three months. The first time I saw them I thought the engineer had the volume down low. The second time I really tried to concentrate, I tried but I just didn’t feel anything.

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  5. Andy says:

    I can’t agree with Ross more and I cant agree with Roger less.

    Live Dear Reader are breath taking. The songs are hypnotic and the musicianship is awe inspiring.

    The album, I feel, is captivating. The sense of innocence in Cheri’s lyrics is honest and never ‘twee’. It’s easy to make lyrics sound crap by quoting them out of context (“knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door” or “I’ve got this guitar and I know how to make it talk” – Dylan and Springsteen respectively !?!), but in context I feel hers are simple, yet incredibly poignant..

    “I don’t know why but it feels like I’m doomed to be always thinking and always confused; try get my mind around me and you and all I achieve is a stew of memories. “

    No insight, sense of humour or real emotion? A maybe band? I disagree whole heartedly.

    But in my opinion the replies and disagreements around a review always carry more weight than the review itself.

    Thank you for the open forum.

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  6. Nathan Zeno says:

    What I am trying to say about the Lyrics is that, for me, they don’t mess with the music to create an emotional whole. Maybe I’m wrong.

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  7. Nathan Zeno says:

    errr, mess? I mean, mesh

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  8. djf says:

    Maybe someone at Mahala should ask Andy to write a review or two?

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  9. brdgettethakiller1 says:

    this is what im talkin’ about. i dig the photo……………man whoever did it surely has taste and talent!!!!

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  10. Jessica says:

    Dear Reader are amazing because they’re not trying to be anything. They’re just being who they are; they’re being honest. They’re not trying to be the greatest band out there, they’re just enjoying making music. And because they enjoy it, you do too.

    Maybe replacing “why” with “funny” isn’t supposed to make sense.

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