BNQT–Vol. 1

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From the opening roll of McKenzie Smith’s drums, it’s good to hear the sound of (some of) Midlake, a favorite band for years despite their intermittent work.  That could once can be blamed on their former leader, Tim Smith, but as their last release without him was in 2013, it’s apparent that they’re all to blame, side business pursuits notwithstanding.  BNQTvolume1

BNQT (pronounced “banquet”), then, is definitely not a Midlake album but rather the sound of musicians stretching their muscles after a long break.  And, I credit them for that, not only for taking a risk, but trying a different musical challenge with obvious enthusiasm.   Here, they’re the backing band for various singers, including their own Eric Pulido and other front men from other bands who are also growing distant from the spotlight, including Franz Ferdinand, Band of Horses, Granddaddy and Travis, each of whom contributed two songs each.  And it works. 

The lineup of songs is fairly peppy, with a dose of pop here, trippiness there, and enough musical diversity to sell whatever song the singers brought to the table.  It’s kind of like Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist – it all fits my interest, but with one exception, there’s nothing that I would star for later replay.  Still, it’s a nice listen.

The only misfire to my ears is the profanity laden “Tara,” which may be funny in it’s way, as in, once.   The lyrics and even the music get tired quickly, and it’s placement near the end of an album without making it the closer suggests someone else agrees.  Ben Bridwell, from Band of Horses, almost makes up for it with “Unlikely Force.”  At the bright end is “Hey Banana,” a trippy throwback, with cello and violin even.   Pulido’s “Real Love” took me a while to appreciate, mostly because it strikes very closely to a rather dreary John Lennon demo with the same name.  It’s a different song, though, and I decided BNQT’s version is perhaps only Lennon’s voice short of a placement on Magical Mystery Tour.  George Martin would like the arrangement, in any case.

I read in one review that the four participating members are what is left of Midlake.  I’m hoping that is not true, because if anything, Vol. 1 strongly suggests that they have more to say, as implied by the album’s title.   That said, perhaps they should go raid former leader Tim Smith’s house, grab a stash of lyrics, set them to music, then invite him to come sing and play flute where there’s space.  Life isn’t that simple, so, like BNQT, we take what pleasures we can get. 

3 of 5 STARS[3]

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