Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Courage Of Others review Pt. 1

"Album number three from Midlake finds the band edging away from past glories and indulging in something new - or new for them, at least. Their first album, Bamnan And Silvercork, was indebted to Radiohead while the splendid The Trials Of Van Occupanther was steeped in the influence of '70s smooth rock. The Courage Of Others takes on the world of folk and assimilates it perfectly.
As such it is something of a departure from its predecessor. Electric guitars take a back seat, only being introduced cautiously to add colour where needed. The songs themselves possess no particularly great hooks, relying instead on subtle nuances and a wonderfully assured vocal performance from Tim Smith to ensure their individuality.
But any concerns that this is a collection of uninspiring folk songs should be instantly banished. This being Midlake, The Courage Of Others is an utterly perfect piece of work from start to finish. The spirits of Fairport Convention, The Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest inform much of this album, but Midlake have taken their influences and created something quite wonderful.
It's not clear whether The Courage Of Others is a concept album, but the theme of the natural world and its fall into decline seems to be a key premise. Many folk songs are concerned with fertility and the wonder of the natural world, but Midlake's world seems to be crumbling and bleak, with only shafts of light giving the smallest slivers of hope. This is the sound of the pastoral landscape being mourned as it disappears under a sea of cement and concrete. It's almost Hardyesque."

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