When you listen to the opening track of No Cities Left you may think that Jeff Buckley has come to life again … and this feeling rules the entire LP, the third in the The Dears musical career.
How important is the first track? Usually you pre-judge an LP from the first song and usually the artist tries to give you a preview of what's to come, sometimes they raise expectations and use a little track (an “intro”) to introduce the first song. Is “We Can Have It” a good opening? At first listen, I would say yes. It has an emotive musical development, but if you attention to the lyrics you can feel so much sorrow and frustration (“Someone somewhere says they've got it all / But that's not even what we want / Not even close”). If you listen to the rest of the album, the songs are easier to listen to.
Personally I prefer as a first track a song that takes risks like “Pinned Together, Falling Apart” with its messy intro (reminiscent of Pulp's This is Hardcore).
On the next tracks the British influences appear. It's so hard to postulate if it's Suede, Pulp and Blur, or Morrissey’s band that have influenced The Dears the most. Maybe they took musical ideas from all of them. Sometimes, it seems, they took more than just the ideas though. For example, the arrangements of the fourth track “Don’t Lost the Faith” are too similar to “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”.
The lyrics dramatically cover all aspects of life: the new high stress tension that can lead to an unsatisfied adult life (“Don't Lose The Faith”), reminiscing about a kiss that eventually broke your heart (“22 The Death Of All The Romance”), worrying too much about the little things (“The Second Part”), and the dream of breaking out of your mundane everyday life. (“Imagining and planning out the course of both our lives”).
No Cities Left is a good LP, full of melancholy, sadness, and passion. It's only weakness is it becomes a catalogue of the alternative brit pop cliché, using intros, arrangements, and vocal work that always reminds you of songs you have heard before.
It may seem like a new concept, but in reality it's not new at all if you thing about the use of samples. At least it's a different development.