Album review: Midlake – ‘The Courage Of Others’ (Bella Union)

The Southerners’ monumental third is a little hippy, a lot heavy

Texas; so much to answer for. Its unnervingly cool capital Austin might be home to SXSW, the world’s finest rock’n’roll conference, but it’s the unassuming city of Denton which has proved itself to be the state’s true musical Mecca, having birthed Jetscreamer’s sex-clatter, the cult of Josh T Pearson’s Lift To Experience
and, of course, [a]Midlake[/a]. Shooting to semi-notoriety with ‘Roscoe’, the deliriously impressive Fleetwood Mac-inspired folk-rock blockbuster from 2006’s ‘The Trials Of Van Occupanther’, this, the band’s third album is still suitably in thrall to that iconic group’s layered mid-Atlantic manner.

Yet it’s the mournful landsliding side of the Mac which airs itself on ‘The Courage Of Others’, now merged with the sonics of [a]Fairport Convention and laced with a delicious atmosphere of darkness that [a]Stevie Nicks[/a] would probably trip over her spangly shawl to cast spooky spells in.

Granted, you’d be right to think the eerie echoes of flute-toting weirdos [a]Jethro Tull[/a] which reverberate around ‘Small Mountain’ and ‘In The Ground’ might be perfect fodder for small town hippies in vegan sandals. But it’s done with such passion and moving musicality that you’ll be swooning rather choking on the scent of 40-year-old patchouli oil that the record seems to have been metaphorically doused in.

The Woodstock-friendly forest psych of ‘Children Of The Grounds’ picks up the pace to a stirring stomp and sits in companionable contrast to ‘Fortune’, a light, tripping track, which, at just over two minutes, is a thing of fleeting and subtle beauty. If it’s mournful epics you want, then the album’s crammed full of them, from the strummed, outdoorsy sorrow of ‘Winter Dies’ to ‘Rulers, Ruling All Things’, which is peppered with cheeky Spanish guitar and weighty, fin-de-siècle lyrical flair.

For proof that Midlake have much more than tie-dye, peyote-spiked muesli and a thing for running naked through the woods at midnight to offer though, just listen to
‘The Horn’’s heavy, [a]Blue Öyster Cult[/a]-esque intro. Now this is why nobody messes with Texas.

Leonie Cooper

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Click here to get your copy of Midlake’s ‘The Courage Of Others’ from the Rough Trade shop.