Midlake – Antiphon

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The announcement that Midlake, my favorite of contemporary bands, was releasing a new CD was great news, as it had been three years since The Courage of Others, which followed four years after The Trials of Van Occupanther.  That’s not a formula to build a reliable audience or sustain a career.  Concurrently, the band announced that it’s writer and lead singer had left the band almost a year prior.  Eh…

Recorded in just six months and free of the perfectionist frustrations of their former leader, Midlake built Antiphon, a term appropriate for their response to the call to go and prove themselves.  As an album title, this works.  As a refrain in their leadoff song, it’s unfamiliarity and awkwardness makes for an unfortunate choice.

But, otherwise… Otherwise, the song is good.  It wakes the listener from the muted folkish flavors of their prior two efforts and sets the stage for a killer sequence in the next three songs where the band sounds like their old selves, but injects some aggression, often with a progressive rock feel to it.  It’s a formula that works through most of the CD.

At other times, they move into a trippy instrumental ambiguity, which is okay for a spell, and this does provide an opening for the return of Bamnan and Silvercork era keyboards.  But overall, the band easily quells any questions about their post Tim Smith abilities.   Chalk it up to a smart players who know how to mix a melodic and occasionally aggressive bass, fluid and perfectly appropriate percussion, occasional flute, crisp and accenting lead guitar, and clear acoustic guitar to carry the tunes.  Good stuff, indeed.

Lyrically, the album is much more obtuse.  Under Smith’s guidance, lyrical vignettes were imagined fairly vividly.  I couldn’t say specifically what most of Antiphon’s songs are about, but the words sound right for what they’re doing musically, and that’s more important to me.  That said, “Science our daughter, Religion our father, Who is mother?” is the worst type of metaphysical babble, absent a tongue firmly planted in cheek.

It will be interesting to see if Tim Smith can free his own vision (under an announced name of Harp) without the support of this cast.  I’m looking forward to what he might create – whenever that is -  but I’m very pleased that Midlake continues to make great music and am curious to hear where they will take it.  And now that they’re without excuse, I’m we’ll hear from them more frequently.

Recommended Songs: “Provider,” “The Old and the Young,” “It’s Going Down”

4 of 5 STARS

1 comment :

  1. Hi all, I’m a Portuguese filmmaker developing a fiction film project that was hugely influenced by Tim Smith’s work. And you know what? He confirmed he will collab in the original soundtrack of the film: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/57589634/squatter-man/posts/685697
    If you can help spreading these exciting news and also promoting the film’s crowdfunding campaign we (Tim Smith’s musical genius admirers) will all be highly appreciated. You can find more info at: http://www.squattermanfilm.com
    Thank you so very much!