Midlake - The Courage Of Others
There’s an air of trepidation just before the needle drops down. The Trials Of Vanoccupanther was my favourite album of the noughties so this carries lofty expectations on its twelve-inch shoulders. But 30 seconds into opener ‘Acts Of Men’ I realise everything is going to be okay.
The Courage Of Others finds a band more confident in their sound. ... Occupanther was like a first date - occasionally unsure quite where to put its hands, testing the water before diving in, yet still delivering a heady rush of endorphins from the mystery and uncertainty. Four years have passed and the relationship has grown. Things are more settled, the days of questioning the direction things are heading are in the past - there is a comfort and security from such familiarity. Love has grown, but this isn’t complacency: no-one is eating with their mouth open whilst scratching their arse using a pencil.
This is a record that takes a while to reveal its beguiling charms. Whilst without question it’s beautiful from the outset, it’s not until the needle has lifted several times that the subtlety and depth start to come to the surface. Midlake's style has grown over time, from an initial uncertainty (which formed a significant part of their charm) they now find their feet and The Courage Of Others strides confidently forward, discarding fear and embracing their artistic convictions.
It isn’t a reinvention - it simply distils everything perfectly. Guitars still chime, ringing out pure and open notes; the wind section textures the landscape as some of the most emotive and seductive vocal harmonies call out. It is simply gorgeous in every sense of the word. Amongst their peers there is no-one who sounds like Midlake.
‘The Horn’ could have been sung around the campfires of Robin Hood, proper old-school credentials. Medieval in the nicest sense of the word. Casting away all cares and worries from the 21st century with music so natural and organic. This reaches out to the soul with a wake up call to remind us of our own humanity and roots. We were never born to fight over the last seat on the train.
The finest moment is title track ‘The Courage Of Others’, invoking goose-bumps from the opening vocal gambit. Its stripped back splendour doesn’t need any frills or make-up: The band just play and a warm glow slowly drifts over everything.
They couldn’t have produced a follow up any better than this. While some of the mystery might have gone, infatuation is replaced with a more committed love. This one’s a keeper.