Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake

Unfashionable music is often a risky business. Throwing your proverbial hat in the ring when the music listening public's taste aren't inured to your particular ideosyncratic styles can be a minefield. But storming out of nowhere has come Midlake, a Texan quintet of music majors, making sounds more reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, Granddady and even The Beach Boys, rather than the current Talking Heads/Duran Duran/New Order 80s rehash-new wave crop, or the 70s-80s heavy rock apers such as Jet and Wolfmother.
'The Trials of Van Occupanther' is pretty. Undeniably, irresistably pretty. And pastoral. And in a musical soundscape dominated by dudes in tight jeans desperately attempting to 'keep it real', a band happy to proceed at a leisurely stroll, replete with the kind of vocal harmonies Brian Wilson and James Mercer would be jealous of is a wondrous thing. When, in the wonderful 'Bandits', vocalist Tim Smith gently coos a tale of being robbed while out looking for a 'rabbit and an ox', the impact is more significant than it was probably intended. In this way, Midlake share much in common with Muse, who, at first glance, are about as similar to Midlake as Pantera are to Elton John. Both offer an escape from 'reality', by musing (pardon the pun) on those things a bit more existential than how to pay for milk or get to the pub.
Do not panic when you hear “Roscoe,” it’s still 2006, and you’re still surrounded by people who listen to Nickelback and try to explain the complexities of how the band’s lyrics help explain their inner most insecurities and thoughts. While 'Bandits' reflects on the appeal of dispensing with the comforts of home and living as a rogue, Van Occupanther is less wistful, the actual story of Van Occupanther may be more obscurant than overt or literary, but the music is so perfect it’s impossible to hold the narrative shortcomings against Smith and the rest of the band.
If an escape from the regular, everyday, and the mundane without reverting to putting on 'Rumours' for the millionth time, look no further than Midlake, circa 2006.

4 stars

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