I think at some point last year I probably put up a rant about Paste magazine. To condense for a preface here then let me just say that some time ago they ran a promo where you could subscribe for any amount you wanted, I spent $3 and ended up feeling it was still too much for such a wanky mag. By the end of said subscription I would have paid them five times the amount just to stop sending me their stupid magazine, every issue complete with another CD that included a bunch of lame ass faux-alt- country and Bow-Tie Bands*. And if you want to know what was so bad about it, imagine a magazine written by people who seem to feel The White Stripes are the band of the decade**.
Get the picture?
So anyway, my subscription ran out and when they emailed me about it I actually replied by sending their renewal form back with ‘HaHaHa’ typed into every field. Nonetheless I continue to get their ‘Paste Lifeline’ emails every now and again, regardless of marking them spam for the better part of a year (I finally just gave up).
Imagine my surprise when I started browsing those emails recently and had the taste of my own words in my mouth as I began finding items that actuallyinterested me in them?
Like what, you ask? Of Montreal’s tie dye recipes? Hot Chip’s recipe for, ah, hot chips?
Nope. The most recent bit of useful, nay joyful information was a blurb about the upcoming Midlake album, THE COURAGE OF OTHERS.
I’d picked up the previous Midlake, THE TRIALS OF VAN OCCUPANTER back when it came out in 2006 on a lark and fell in love with it immediately. What, hold on a second, I feel a tangent coming on:
It may surprise some and incite hate from others, but I really like Fleetwood Mac. Don’t get me wrong, they have their share of shite, just like a lot of bands who went from smoking dope in the early 70′ to shoveling coke down their windpipes a few years later do, but they also have a lot of truly magical songs that emanate a spooky, almost spectral ambiance. I bring up Fleetwood Mac because just as the author of the review pointed out, every single person with something to say about ‘Van Occupanther…’ essentially said the same thing, ‘Modern Fleetwood Mac’. Yeah, and you know why we all say it?
That’s what it sounds like.
Not entirely of course. This isn’t a case such as the aforementioned Stripes, where their influences so overly saturate some of what they do that the nostalgia gets old real fast and leaves you just wanting to listen to the material that inspired them. Oh no. In fact, Midlake’s album before ‘Van…’, BAMNAN AND SLIVERCORK, had far less to compare to Fleetwood Mac or any 70’s era Gypsy Rock’ for that matter, existing instead in a somewhat malleable state betwixt seemingly disparate elements of smooth keyboard electronica and mildly ominous acoustic meanderings. Both albums are great but for my money ‘Van…’ is the winner hands down, offering minor-key moods, often counter-intuitive harmonies and Wind in the Willows-esque imagery across the journey of its eleven tracks. And now Midlake is back, four years later, with a new journey.
I’ve been listening to advance tracks from The Courage of Others on http://www.lala.com/ (thanks Mr. Brown) and again I’m going to have to eat crow and give it to Paste, well, not Paste per se but Bart Blasengame, the chap who penned the review for them, if for no other reason than his seemingly spot-on summation of what this album is sounding like to me: ‘Baroque Sabbath’. Take a look for yourself and tell me if even the album cover doesn’t look like a Sabbath sleeve, circa about ’75, between Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage perhaps?***
There’s something about a band that takes the craft to conjure the
proper image for their album art and of this clan there can be no doubt that Midlake is
a member. On top of that, one look at the arrangement of the art and
you know these guys
had vinyl sleeves in mind when they laid it out. The tunes here have a
haunting, renaissance-psychedelic quality, so that probably whatever
the image makes you think of, that’s what they’ve
transduced into sound arrangements. Perhaps a touch more reliant on the
good old minor-key and a spot heavier (though not ‘heavy’ by any means) than ‘Van Occupanther…’,
The Courage of Others is one of the first highly-anticipated albums
this year for me and ironically I have a magazine I dislike to thank
for letting me know about it. Perhaps I should look into renewing my
subscription to Paste?
Naw, as Monty Burns would undoubtedly say, ‘I’d still rather not’.
* I’m making it official here. Someone had to coin ‘yacht rock’ somewhere, right? So I’m saying go forth and call all Decemberist-looking, mopey hipster horn-rimmers Bow Tie Bands from this day on! Godspeed!!!
** I like the White Stripes, but to a point. Get Thee Behind Me Satan struck me as a piss-poor attempt at going ‘Tom Waits’ and Jack White’s over-saturation about mid-way through the last decade made me reeeeaaalll tire of the two piece reeeeaaalll fast.
*** But no checkered underwear on the drummer beneath his tight red pants, that’s a Bill Ward copyright!