FEAR THE DEAN: Dawson's Pop-Rock Gems
by Julia Jenne
November 4, 2015 | Arts and Culture
Released on Soundcloud on August 28th, Dawson-based alt-rock band Fear the Dean’s self-titled debut LP comes as the obvious product of that vicious, obsessive cycle that every good artist must go through: practicing, reflecting, fine-tuning, and repeat (oh, and possibly a nice heated argument or two stuck in there somewhere).
I can only assume this must be the case, because Fear the Dean’s 11-song arrangement is quite sophisticated with singer/guitarist Alex Izzo and bassist Francois Black’s musical compatibility apparent throughout. Thoughtful, cohesive and extremely listenable, the album is a world away from what you might expect from a college rock band. It definitely isn’t what I was expecting, anyway. But I guess that probably says more about me and my prejudices than anything…
In any case, Fear the Dean is indeed a pleasure to listen to. The album opens on a strong note with a Yo La Tengo-esque instrumental, “N’Importe Quoi.” Contrary to what it’s title might suggest, “N’Importe Quoi” is actually something – and something lovely at that. It’s a lush, melodic piece that draws a listener into the album.
“N’Importe Quoi” was a wiser choice for an intro than, say, its follow up tune, “Ticket out of Norway”, which made me worried that I might have to listen to ten more songs full of its same hardcore influence. Lucky for me, “Ticket out of Norway” acts as more of an energizer for the rest of the album than it does a tone-setter. It leads into the more pop-oriented, stuck-in-love lament, “Sucker For You.” This song is definitely a high point on the album and would probably make a great single, given its upbeat melody, killer bridge and cute, clever lyrics sung from the perspective of a lovable underdog:
“Vague recognition could last me a week / I dread the way your lips move when you speak / Still pessimistic, expecting the best / I wish my heart could just give it a rest.”
True to their pop-punk influences, Fear the Dean did their duty in including a nice helping of angst-ridden curse songs. I’m thinking specifically of “I Hope Your White Dress Gets Dirty”, an angry rant, quite possibly directed at the subject of “Sucker For You.” Next up is one of my favourites, and the album’s most obvious ballad: “Home Alone.” At a live show, this track would likely have the crowd digging their pockets for their lighters (or cell phones, if that’s how you roll). The consistently soft guitar melody, passionate vocals and introspective lyrics make this one a true showstopper.
“Three’s A Crowd” is another confused love song, all in good fun. Now, our unlucky narrator has found himself in a tricky love triangle between two gals: “Which one’s the one?” Loaded with fast, poppy drum beats and a variant of your standard na na na filler, this track rings early 2000s pop-rock, and in the greatest way. I guarantee it’ll get you reminiscing about your Sum 41/Blink-182/Green Day/whateverthehellyoulistenedtoasakid days.
Fast forward to “Social Network Stalker”, and you find an aptly-named testament to the strange wonders of post-Internet romance. The lyrics target a former lover who “just doesn’t get that it’s over,” and like most of us have done before, has taken to Facebook stalking to deal with the breakup. Our narrator understands the pain but still stands firm: “I guess I’ll see you from time to time, just don’t forget that my heart’s offline.”
Fear the Dean closes on a high note with the lovely, lyrically-strong “New York, I Love You.” The playful, pop-punk lyrics of the previous songs are abandoned in favour of indie-influenced ones that aim to express more intangible emotions. In my interpretation, these lyrics voice sentiments we’ve all felt before: knowing you’re in the wrong place, with the wrong person, and that your time is running short. “Take me home now,” are the words that close the album, in a poignant reminder that we are all always looking for home, in one way or another.
Fear the Dean’s debut album doesn’t fail to impress this eager critic. Fusing the easy-listening element of modern rock with the drum beats, angsty lyrics and hate-it-or-love-it, whiny vocals all trademark to pop-punk, the album is rounded in such a way that music snobs, on both sides of the spectrum, will find common ground in its songs. I can’t help but marvel at the fact that this kind of stellar talent lives among us anonymously in the halls of Dawson, just waiting to be featured in one of my stellar reviews. In all seriousness, though, I am genuinely looking forward to what will come next from this act. Fear the Dean, I encourage you to keep on rockin’ without any fear (couldn’t wait to get a pun in here somewhere!). Oh, and try not to let those girls get you down too much.