Protest begins with a military drumroll, piping flutes and throbbing synths. It sounds like a 21st century version of the Spirit of ‘76 painting; unfortunately, The Dears quickly lose their handle and slip into derivation. “Summer of Protest” melds the bassline from “Psycho Killer” with Joy Division atmosphere and singer Murray Lightburn’s aping of Ian Curtis’s low baritone and diction. “No Hope Before Destruction” is Kid A-lite, copping both a dirge-y piano and processed, digitized vocals from Radiohead. The Dears exercise little voice of their own, and when they do it’s through vague lines like, “this is the summer of protest/of every dollar that kills.” It’s ineffectual and directionless, taking potshots at the usual targets. If the band actually believes in the urgency of their rhetoric, they should learn to cleave off some of the largesse in their bloated songwriting. Focus would’ve saved them from the two meandering, repetitive 6+ minute tracks as well as the 11 minute lyric-less “remix” of “Protest (Parallel).” If this is protest music, The Dears “enemy” is too easily subdued by dance music and in vogue influences to be much of a threat. The band should learn that there are things in the world worth fighting against, and bland music is one of them.
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