Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars unconvinced, 3 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Courage Of Others (Audio CD)
Like many others I came across Midlake after listening to their previous album, 'The Trials of van Occupanther'. And like many I was positively bowled over by that particular album. So after what seems like an eternity we have the follow up, 'The Courage of Others'. My initial reaction on playing this a couple of weeks back when I first got it was one of slight disappointment. I played the album in the car and nothing about it really stood out. But that quite often happens with an album that grows with more plays. Trouble is it hasn't really grabbed me despite a good few plays. It's not that this is a particularly bad album it's just that it is, to be brutally honest, a little bland. I get the fact that they're enamoured with 70s British folk a la Pentangle/Fairports. Trouble is this has neither the 'honesty' or 'feel' of either of those bands at their best. In fact both had very variable output in any case in my opinion and this is comparable to some of the mediocre Pentangle stuff that I remember rather than the best of it.

The first few tracks are played at the same slow pace and delivered with a similar 'disinterested' vocal. Only on 'Children of the Grounds' does this album pick up to compare to van Occupanther and when it does, on this track it is good. Earlier on 'Winter Dies' is pretty good as well but does sound rather like something already done by Espers. I know those who love this album will hate this review but I have really given it a good few listens now. It's not a bad album at all, but in terms of living up to its predecessor it doesn't I'm afraid. Perhaps it needs more listens? The jury is out at the moment on that one but I shall endeavour. Disappointed - so far. (5.5/10)
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Mar 2010 00:13:08 GMT
Michael says:
A big mistake was listening in the car. This album requires you to surrender to it without distraction. Otherwise, it's not going to envelop, regardless of multiple listens. This album is easily better than The Trials of Van Occupanther, it just doesn't have its obvious hits.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Mar 2010 18:01:28 GMT
Hi Michael. I've really tried and I've listened to it whilst relaxing at home since. But it still doesn't strike me I'm afraid. It's not a bad album just (and it's only my opinion) not a great one. I don't mind laid back, drifting albums at all (think Beach House's 'brilliant 'Teen Dream') but I just think this doesn't do it for me. I hope it does some time, I shall play it some more yet, I haven't given up.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Mar 2010 22:48:59 GMT
Michael says:
Well, my frustration is that people are incessantly comparing The Courage of Others to The Trials of Van Occupanther. If you listen to the lyrics closely, it's obvious why this supposed "disinterest" is intact. It's a very forlorn and melancholy album. People are also mistaking subtlety for similarity. This album is FAR more mature than their previous efforts in every respect. It's unquestionably better produced, recorded and played. There are just no obvious singles. Unless you have audiophile quality equipment, this is an album that could sound cramped because it is so deceptively layered and complex. It's best on headphones because the layers begin to peel. It takes about a dozen listens to truly unfold, which demands a lot from listeners, but it's absolutely worth the investment and now it's my favorite album in years. And this is coming from someone who adored The Trials of Van Occupanther. But whereas that album felt frontloaded, this latest effort never lets up from start to finish. I feel like people are complaining about this album without having a decent understanding of what it entails. I like Teen Dream well enough, but it's not quite deserving of all of the plaudits it's been receiving. The production is brighter, but its chromatic polish is clean to the point of sterility. The Courage of Others is not just an album to be listened to, it needs to be FOLLOWED, and this is where people are going wrong. You go in and you don't come out until it's over because it sustains a distinct mood that none of its predecessors or its contemporaries achieved.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Mar 2010 00:02:05 GMT
I take your point Michael and I shall try and have another go at it. I wasn't settign out to deliberately get at this effort or anything like that. All the reviews I write I write because I genuinely feel the way I do about those things. Like you say it may take time with head phones etc. It's difficult in our busy worlds to commit like that when we all have busy schedules - work, family, other music. But I take the point.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Mar 2010 00:09:13 GMT
You may or may not like them Michael but if you can, have a listen to Mr Bones and the Dreamers (http://www.myspace.com/mrbonesandthedreamers). They were a band I was managing until a few months ago (I have nothing to do with them now - too busy with work - so I have nothing to gain by pushing it by the way). They put out a (very neglected) EP last year (it's still downloadable on Amazon I see). They set out with the intention of making the EP multi-layered and complex but I must admit although I thought it excellent my concern was that if anything it was too complex and layered. Sometimes simple is best? I don't know. I get your point about 'following' but like I said it takes time and time is so precious. I know I 'need' to follow Joanna Newsom's new album. I've listened to it and it's excellent but there will undoubtedly be more and more hidden depths to prise out of that and it's 2 hours long!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Apr 2010 15:58:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Apr 2010 18:53:49 BDT
Red on Black says:
Mr Tillman and Mr Wheeler
I have read this debate with interest and hope you excuse my intrusion. I have to say that the idea that an album needs to be "followed" actually reads more into the work than the band probably itself intended. Midlake have constantly stated with this band that they didn't want to "reinvent the wheel" on Courage of Others and in evoking British folk music they bring their own take to this music which is well done (although I had forgotten about Espers and clearly there are some strong similarities).

Frankly I had stopped listening to this for a while and upon revisiting the album today my reservations remain. The idea that enlightenment comes through "surrendering" or doggedly "going in and not coming out" in order to sustain a mood seems to me to be little more than a recipe for listening to a number of songs which are not very good. "Bring down" is the sort of song that could soundtrack "Country File", and both the Horn and the Courage of Others are in my opinion so monochromatic and mournful that they are devoid of any enjoyment factor not least of all by this point on the album Tim Smith is starting to drone. Genuinely Mr Tillman if this is your favourite album in years then "fair do's" as they say in this part of the world and I admire your stout defence of it. I was delighted to hear again today Children of the Grounds, Winter Dies and Rulers, Ruling all things which are great songs. Whilst understanding your frustration on the comparisons between The Courage of Others to The Trials of Van Occupanther, I think the reason is simply that for many the former is not as good as the predecessor and therefore inevitably disappointment has set in.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Apr 2010 20:19:48 BDT
Have to say I agree with this. I've tried again since the above discussion but it still doesn't grab me. I don't think in anyway it's a terrible record (hence I gave it 5.5/10) just not as good as perhaps it may have been. I've no doubt they're talented. A friend went to see them live on their recent tour and she was bowled over. I would probably have gone if I'd liked the album a little more. But still.... For a really good album just coming out go and have a listen to Jonsi's 'Go'. Now I do like that and it DOES seem to 'develop' over the piece of work, unlike 'Courage of Others'.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2010 11:03:37 BDT
Red on Black says:
Mr Wheeler
Thank you - A spooky recommendation from you since I listened to Jonsi yesterday in the car up to Mid Wales and it was an absolutely perfect soundtrack around the Black mountains and I felt compelled write a review of "Go" last evening.
I know Mr Tillman feels strongly about the Midlake album as a "unified whole" but I just don't see this. The album is certainly beautifully crafted and on your scoring system it would certainly get 7 out of 10 (in my view). The latter part of the album is nonetheless seriously flawed and while they have created a complex tapestry of sound it doesn't always add up to a memorable listen.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2010 15:57:42 BDT
Ha! We're on the same wavelength I see. Just read the review of Go, nice one.
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