My initial response upon hearing this record was that it’s so much more sombre than predecessor ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther.’ The opening tune ‘Acts of Man’ is absolutely gorgeously dark, textured and rich and wets the appetite beautifully. So upon listening to this for the first time I was very eager to hear more. And then? Well I’m not sure to be honest. I genuinely feel that this is a collection of really good songs, if you actually take each one individually, but as an album I’m not sure it does much for me. There doesn’t feel like there’s much variety to the album. There’s not really a change of pace. All the tracks seem to go in the same direction from the beginning and it really is a very sombre downbeat affair, which is not something I was expecting and is something which adds to the sense of one pacedness if you like.
I recently wrote a piece on this blog about challenging your established sound. This spoke about artists like Midlake who really came to prominence because of their last album ‘Van Occupanther’. The question was, can a band, this early in their career realistically challenge their established sound. I concluded that you’d have to have a very understanding record label and a large set of testicles to try. And there’s no way that Midlake have challenged their established sound on this record. That said, there is a distinctly different tone and atmosphere to this record than its predecessor. The floatyness (is that a word?!) of Van Occupanther is still there but it’s far more sinister this time, in my opinion. Some of the tunes make me think of medieval England if that makes any sense to anyone!? Midlake have always been somewhat whimsical in nature, but there’s something about the tone of this record that makes me think of the court of Henry VIII and tales of war. I know. I’m weird. But the floatyness snarls rather than chirps and the whole thing feels much, much darker.
So do I like this record? Well I’m torn. I think as individual songs most of the tracks are good. I love Midlake. I love what they do and I don’t think many others can do intelligent alternative pop music anywhere near as well as they do. A few. But not many. I think I need more time with this record. It’s definitely grown on me the more I’ve listened. Make your own mind up though. Check them out here. Enjoy.