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Midlake - The Trials Of Van Occupanther CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.89 | 39 ratings

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5 stars If the career of a successful band is comprised of a number of breakthroughs in audience acclaim and artistic achievement, then "Trials of Van Occupanther" marks the first breakthrough for this earnest Denton, TX band.

In addition to its transfixing if somewhat opaque story line and uniformity, as opposed to redundancy, of style, "Van Occupanther" represents probably the most convincing album of 1970s influenced art rock recorded by artists too young to remember that decade first hand. The almost non stop emotive melodies pay homage to FLEETWOOD MAC, AMERICA, LOGGINS AND MESSINA, THE EAGLES, and some Brits like DIRE STRAITS, AMAZING BLONDEL (post John Gladwin period) and MAGNA CARTA. No one influence dominates, although the laid back California sound of that period often returns to impart the sensuous shivery awe of a sunny, tranquil west coast day. At the same time, the group has distilled the most enduring aspects of the music of that period, and produced one of the freshest albums of its own decade. I actively dislike most of the EAGLES output, recognize AMERICA's limitations, find MAGNA CARTA a bit boring, enjoy a few LOGGINS and MESSINA songs in small doses, ok I do love FLEETWOOD MAC, but my point is that MIDLAKE concocts an eclectic and more emotionally grounded vision.

On first listens this is just pleasant enough, but it is with every return visit to MIDLAKE's alternate reality that one comes to appreciate the album's ability to transport its audience. Its progressive virtues slowly and shyly reveal themselves in tracks like the stunning "Young Bride", which hints at the band's upcoming subservience to all matters English; "Branches", which shuffles along before tastefully bursting out; "In this Camp" and the plaintive keeper "Bandits". But really, all the material presented here is good or better, ultimately made excellent by the manner in which it is loyally compiled. Yes, even, maybe especially, the FLEETWOOD MAC related indulgences like "Roscoe" and driving beauty "Head Home",

While not matching the immediate impact of the follow up "The Courage of Others", "Trials of Van Occupanther" may ultimately prove more sustaining. Time will tell, but, in the case of "Trials" the verdict is in.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |


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