Oh Dearby 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.