Release Date: Feb 2, 2010
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
Midlake’s emergence as indie-scene headliners seemingly defies the laws of musical physics. For starters, it’s quite possibly the only post-1980 band to cite Jethro Tull as an influence. Its most popular song is, improbably, an ode to a woman who reads Hobbes’ Leviathan. And Midlake’s breakout album, featuring artwork that falls somewhere between The Fantastic Mr.
Before getting stuck into The Courage of Others: a moment to consider Midlake’s second LP, The Trials of Van Occupanther (2006). Undoubtedly a breakthrough of sorts, from the heady vantage point of 2010 it’s easy to forget that it was far from an instant success. A smattering of positive reviews emerged in its wake, sure, but other factors significantly played into its current status as something of a cult favourite.
Imagine the Romantic poets mourning climate change to a 1970s folk-rock soundtrack and you won't be far from The Courage of Others. The third album from Texan quintet Midlake, it trembles with awe of sublime nature and sorrow for its destruction. Apparently this theme is unintentional – "I don't have any message to save the earth," frontman Tim Smith told an interviewer last year – but it's inescapable, explicit in Smith's lyrics and implicit in the richly textured but earnest music.
Texas; so much to answer for. Its unnervingly cool capital Austin might be home to SXSW, the world’s finest rock’n’roll conference, but it’s the unassuming city of Denton which has proved itself to be the state’s true musical Mecca, having birthed Jetscreamer’s sex-clatter, the cult of Josh T Pearson’s Lift To Experienceand, of course, [a]Midlake[/a]. Shooting to semi-notoriety with ‘Roscoe’, the deliriously impressive Fleetwood Mac-inspired folk-rock blockbuster from 2006’s ‘The Trials Of Van Occupanther’, this, the band’s third album is still suitably in thrall to that iconic group’s layered mid-Atlantic manner.
When Midlake released The Trials of Van Occupanther in 2006, the fact that their album was so AOR-indebted was hardly noteworthy. Plenty of indie acts were mining similar ground — tell me The Flaming Lips’ At War With the Mystics wasn’t pretty much a weirder Peter Cetera record. What was interesting about The Trials was how it separated itself from the crowd.
For all the problematic tendencies of that infamous Internet hype (the knee-jerk following of the leader, the overhype-backlash cycle, etc.), it's nice that we have bands like Midlake around to remind us why we get so excited over great new music. These guys garnered all kinds of attention for The Trials of Van Occupanther, but it was no sudden rise to fame. Over the few years before that, the band had been honing its sound, and all the hard work came to fruition on that beautiful album.
Some people might be disappointed with Midlake’s follow up to their acclaimed second album, The Trials of Van Occupanther. That concept album had stellar songs and a grand yet perhaps silly narrative that brought it all together in a nice mellow Fleetwood Mac feel. The Courage of Others comparatively is a downer. It’s more difficult to get into.
There’s a certifiable risk involved when a band tries to resurrect a long-dead, much-maligned subgenre from the shipwreck graveyard of pop music. Sometimes, if the public is ready for it like it was for the recent resurgence of ‘80s-style synth pop, you can be called a genius and musical pioneer. If they are not, well, I think you see where I’m going with this.
What happened, Midlake? The Courage Of Others is a middling effort of Renaissance Faire fare. Their 2006 saga, The Trials Of Van Occupanther, had heart, and Tim Smith's gentle, welcoming voice could do no wrong. But the 60s-influenced prog-folk Texan journeymen get snoozy in this latest chapter. [rssbreak] Smith's apparent disinterest in making a notable note ties in with the album's theme of withering greyness.
In the middle of 2006, Midlake released The Trials of Van Occupanther, a record of Ren Faire-infused folk-pop shot through with a healthy dose of post-blues, pre-bitterness Fleetwood Mac. Van Occupanther was full of small delights and the occasional major triumph. Its charms were subtle; occasionally a shimmering melodic flourish or a shade in singer Tim Smith's earthy throat would float into the mix and really knock you out.
LIL WAYNE“Rebirth”(Cash Money/Universal) Sure, Lil Wayne’s rock album, “Rebirth,” is a misfire, the kind of thing that happens when a star overestimates his skills (and calls his opening track “American Star”). But if Kid Rock can rap, why can’t Lil Wayne try being a rocker?. .
A lovely record that doesn't sound like it belongs in this age at all. Rob Webb 2010 Sometimes it takes a certain mindset to fully appreciate the charms of an act who, while universally revered and seemingly of no little sonic allure, still leave your critical faculties cold amid intense fanfare. So it was with Midlake, and this reviewer, around the time of 2006's The Trials of Van Occupanther.
Examining past experiences as they come along, a band like Midlake is certainly capable of achieving successful feats. Their first album found a small base of fans and while The Trials of Van Occupanther charmed everyone from critics and fans alike, the beauty of that album was its continuous rewarding. Somewhere between the Fleetwood Mac vibe, the flowered flutes and Tim Smith’s mellow, affecting voice was a subtle demeanor: it wasn’t the album you immediately loved, well, immediately.