The Trials of Van Occupanther
||"It Covers the Hillsides"
Perhaps it's a sign of the incredible processor speed and search
engine capacity of our modern times that causes indie bands to
chew up influences and move on at such a lightning clip. The return
of electro was quickly followed by the stoner folk craze, and
now the search goes on for un-mined retro-revivals. Ultimately,
it's just rock and roll and we need our influences, make it too
original and it sounds like crap. I want a beat and a melody.
Nonetheless, I was a bit surprised, pleasantly so, to hear the
new Midlake album, their second release on former Cocteau Twin
Simon Raymonde's Bella Union label.
The boys from Denton, Texas have taken a leap forward from their
quirky folk-pop debut and delivered a rich and beautiful suite
of songs that effortlessly draw not on some forgotten building
block of modern pop, but on the classic staples of adult radio:
Steely Dan, Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac, maybe even a touch
of Wings in there. I'm not calling this record cheesy, I happen
to think those are all wonderful bands. Midlake bring smart songwriting,
interesting lyrics, great playing and nuanced production to The
Trials Of Van Occupanther. This makes for a record
that is sure to appeal not just to your washed-up alcoholic uncle,
but also to fans of slick and accomplished bands like the Doves
or Radiohead. From the great opening salvo of "Roscoe"
to the first single, the aim-for-the-heart-is-this-marriage-over-before-it-started
ballad of "Young Bride," Midlake have crafted a mature
and lovely album of laid-back piano, crisp gated drums, majestic
guitars and hypnotic vocal riffs that are destined to be stuck
on someone's radio for many years to come, just waiting for the
culture vultures to catch up to it again. [JM]