Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Midlake- The Trials of Van Occupanther (by Taunto)

Whenever your parents sell the house you grew up in, or someone puts a freeway through your old neighborhood, a knee jerk reaction is to bolt and find somewhere to create your own home - a new and improved location and identity that breaks from the past and looks to the future. A fresh start both mentally and physically. But when that doesn't work, we often return to our old haunts and scrounge around for anything that will make us feel like it isn't all gone. Midlake's latest record kind of sounds like that. The songs are about home; finding it, keeping it and leaving it. The lyrics reference marriage, jobs and living in cabins, yet the album's protagonist often seems to want nothing more than to be alone. We all go back and forth at certain points between wanting to be on our own and wallowing in memories of the past, and I think everyone can relate to that on some level- at least those who complain about Dallas all the time and then never leave. We're all looking for something, or hanging on to what we've found.

"The Trials of Van Occupanther" is soft, warm, and immediately comforting. The chord progressions reference Fleetwood Mac in case you didn't know (pre-Tusk post-Rumors), and the nice wet piano sound that's present on most of the songs is, to me, like hearing oxygen. The arrangements are simple and pretty, adding flute and viola effectively and resurrecting bits and pieces of Janis Ian here or Joni Mitchell's "Court & Spark" there. And if you squint past the Thom Yorkyness of the vocals, you can indeed see Neil Young. And although one can become tied down with all these blatant comparisons and resemblances, I'm still glad that Midlake sounds the way they do. There's room for it right now. The big glammy garage 80s rehash was killin' me, and it's a comfort to know that somebody else out there also likes Bread, Wings, Steely Dan, and Steven Stills' solo stuff. I personally have been waiting forever for this to happen.

But with this ease and familiarity comes a pang of loneliness. I realized a few songs in that I was enjoying this record so much because it reminded me of all those other things; places, people and songs from the past that I already cherish. Like staring at someone else's family photo albums, I recognized the faded colors of the old photography, the fashion and the facial hair - even though I've never seen them before. And I like the photographs because by looking at them, I'm simply recalling my own history in some way. It's not that I don't like Midlake's album – I really do – but I think I like it as much as I do because I appreciate and understand what they are attempting: to cling to past sounds and experiences, in hopes of finding themselves somewhere in there. And I think they're doing it beautifully.


Blogger Chris said...

you've pinpointed exactly what i love about this record but was unable to articulate...it's that "pang of loneliness" that comes with the familiarity.

btw, these guys are guesting on my sirius show tomorrow night, and their picks play out how you might expect: lots of America, CSN, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, bread, etc.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


don't those guys like America?

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that was a very cool review.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Seals and Crofts tribute band that should so open up for Midlake.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, it looks like bobby ewing dreams was on to something here.

can we go back to talking about douches and carpentry now?

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"wow, it looks like bobby ewing dreams was on to something here.
can we go back to talking about douches and carpentry now?" said bobby ewing dreams.

in related news, bobby ewing dreams started their period today and can't handle their bidness.

Man, but you really showed wsjr!

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This record blows. Why would anyone want to bring back 70's soft rock?

3:28 PM  
Blogger wakka-wakka said...

A: What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, I am really mad at that bobby ewing shit. getting off free, after coming on as the anti-jr, like he knew something important, like he knew what was up, and then chides everybody and backs away because we don't understand what's what. suck it you piece of shit site.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They feel guilty. They know they betrayed friends.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'70s soft rock is fine, but I can't get around how overrated this record is. "Roscoe" is a decent song, sure, but the album as a whole is Coldplay-level boring. And please stop bringing Neil Young into this.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you guys are retarded

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you guys really like Midlake, I must be missing something

5:40 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I'm not going to get into a public guessing match about who those bobby ewing people are, because I couldn't really give a shit. If they really are the ones coming on here and acting like tools, then more power to em, because they just end up looking dumb.

That whole guerilla marketing thing gets pretty obvious after a while.

5:42 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...

jesux! did the same person just throw down all those anoymous comments in a row????

please. get. a. life.

5:43 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I'm not sure if I like the Midlake album quite as much as Taunto does, but I think its pretty solid, and I think there are a couple excellent tracks mixed in with a few good ones and a couple average ones.

If you like pop, then you'll love it. If you don't, you'll find it boring, but if you're being honest, you'll probably at least recognize that its good for what it is.

5:45 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...

SR, yeah sure, it's easy to blame BED for all the "toolish" comments, but c'mon you've had anonymous tools commenting on here from the get go.

why? because you let them post, well, anonymously.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from the fine line

A Few Updates: WeShotJR musta really had a time with the ‘Van Occupanther album! Why he’s downright sentimental in this perfectly splendid review. I think I’ve fallen in love with JR.

When you start to agree with her your in trouble.

guess i'll start reading the observer again

Next you will be telling us how good eisley is.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm working on a Loggins & Messina album of covers. i will call it log in the lake. i love the 70's

5:50 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...

^^^case in point: the anonymous tool who posted above me..

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do not let taunto review anymore albums...

5:54 PM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...


You seem to have a problem with anonymous comments. I'm glad you're not an "anonymous tool" yourself. So is Shit your first or last name?

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kudo's: DL!!! my main main! mr.supershit needy goey bye'd'bye. midlake, hmmm... well, lets start w/they're name and work backwards....

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

their name, whatever... it's a feeding frenzy, O.K.???

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a reprise, if you will.
we shot the seventies!!!

7:02 PM  
Blogger Bobby Ewing Dreams said...

We're only going to say this once. For the record, we don't come on here and post anonymously. We have a blog and a name, and we're not afraid to use our name. If you actually read our blog, you know that we like JR; we're just trying to be more broad in covering the North Texas music scene.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

did freud have anything to say about 7th grade relapses???

9:55 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...


shit is my last name. obviously.

at least i can be addressed here. i'm not just one out of who knows how many anynomous tools.

11:18 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...

DL, SR, Taunto, et.al.

i promise i'll stop after this..

it's your blog, so break a leg. i'm just pointing out that i've read here, that the point of this blog is to do something productive for the music community by covering some bands that my get overlooked by the observer or other blogs/media.

that's cool, but by not monitoring the anonymous comments, i'm just suggesting that there could be detramental things happening to the music community as a result.

honestly, i speak from personal experience.... i was out at a show one night, talking to a regular blogger on we shot jr who is in a band. we were talking about his band and i tried to make a constructive criticism during our conversation. he automatically assumed i was one of the anonymous assholes who had been talking shit about him here (he gets shit talked about him frequently and good stuff too).

i tried to assure him it wasn't me, but it seems like he just can't be sure. he's turned into a paranoid schizzo over the criticsm of mean spirited anonymous bloggers. now every time i see him out, i can tell he's distrusting and it's kind of affected our friendship and i'm pretty bummed about that.

you guys write with pretty competent journalistic prowess. maybe you should consider doing more editorial work with your reader feedback too.

there's nothing beneficial about letting people insult, slander or rail against the people making art in this city.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH, that sassy internet drama!

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mister shit, you're an anonymous hypocrite anonymously criticizing other anonymous posters for criticizing anonymously. fuck you.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just too lazy to sign up for an account.

1:10 AM  
Blogger mistershit said...

you do cut me to the quick, anon 10:11

1:45 AM  
Anonymous johnh said...

I agree with Mister Shit. Mister Shit is right. It would be one thing if these anonymous posters had something to add to the conversation (we are all above the age of 13 right?) but they're the equivalent of ghost farts. They stink and you can't see them. Why should this be a place where ghosts fart? It's cool to have anonymous comments but for the most part it indulges a lot of negative, pointless personal bashing.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"honestly, i speak from personal experience.... and i'm pretty bummed about that."

mister shit. you are a liar. Quit making shit up to prove your point which has no merit.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Zak said...

I'm not the biggest fan of a lot of that 70's AM radio and soft rock stuff, but some of it has a something to the sound that is appealing, hard to define, reminds me of my parents I guess. I have not heard the Midlake album yet (wish it was on Rhapsody so I could preview it), but plan on picking it up. "Roscoe" is a very good song however and is still one of my favorites of the year.

I definitely understand that people don't like that sound though. At least we really haven't seen a revisit of Emerson, Lake & Palmer or some of that other crappy overwrought prog.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Sam Machkovech said...

"maybe you should consider doing more editorial work with your reader feedback too."

Maybe you should consider not bitching at a guy who runs a site for free. And while you're at it, tell your friend to get the fuck over it. Blaming a blog for your friend's neuroses is like Mike Cooper blaming that reporter for catching him whack off at a library. He was still whackin' off.

...that's not a good analogy. I just wanted to make fun of Mike Cooper one more time.

And I'm surprised that nobody's bothered giving the other songs on Van Occupanther praise, particularly "In This Camp," which I think is a really stellar combo of song structure, instrumentation and story. If you're on the fence about Midlake, find that song and see if it doesn't tip you one way or the other.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

save it for the Observer dude

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:04, while that was a little amusing, fuck off. Sam is a genuine guy, doing a good job, and you read his shit every week and you know it.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I really don't read his shit every week but you're right about it being shit.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So from what I've read, Midlake has one good song called "Roscoe" and nobody is really sure what to think of anything else

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. Yes you do.
You read it every week.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I don't read it. I would rather have no idea what is going on then read that self important crap. Besides, I have a computer with a bunch of anonymous people telling me what to go see. Isn't technology grand?

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You read it. Self important? What's more self important than blogworld? Everybody has an angle. Everybody is in the know. You read the Observer. You read it every week. We all do. Liar.

12:41 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:54 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...

cool, i got sam all riled up!

nobody's bitchin. i'm just posing a question. i'm surprised to hear you, of all people, shut it down so quickly...

SR, despite what sam's trying to accuse me of, i do appreciate the work you put into this site. i'm sure it takes a lot of corridnation and it's not always easy. hell, that bobby ewing site said they can't even keep up with posting everday, so at least you're doing that much and a whole lot more.

don't change a thing about your blog; i was just throwin' down a little dissent.

speaking of other blogs that couldn't hack it, Sam, didn't you have something to do with that deconstruction blog? that shit hasn't been updated in like, 17 years. WTF?

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not Sam's blog.
It's some smug dudes.

Mr.Shit... Everyone can see through you. You have pretty much zero to offer other than the so lame hip attitude. Nobody cares what you think and you are not funny. You're like a fart joke in a david spade movie.

1:04 PM  
Blogger mistershit said...

cool, i've been targeted by an anonymous stalker.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the burgers are ready to be flipped.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, thats so sad if everybody reads the Observer. And I was being sarcastic about blogs telling me what to go see. I can make up my own mind. I don't just go where people tell me to go or read what people tell me to read. You go on and read that paper of yours and think that everyone reads it too. Power in numbers right? Even if you're wrong. These threads have turned into the equivalent of thirteen year olds fighting over nothing. Even the blog maker himself slides into the mud. You're fighting over local bands and people and next month it will be different local bands and people and on and on and boring.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And up until right now, you were the last guy to think he knew everything, so suck it. You are the same. Plus, you read the Observer. We all do.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Rj said...

The observer has a ton of potential. They have a few pretty good writers.

They may not dig as deep as these sites, but you have to understand that a huge percentage of people in this area don't pay attention to local music, or music in general. Maybe that is because they don't have coverage, so start a blog or a zine already. I'm pretty sure that is why we are reading WSJR.

And if the observer covered all of the really small bands, people would be bitching about how they like this band, but don't like that band.

It's good to see that people are passionate about music here, but try to focus some of that energy in a positive manner.

I've been in multiple scenes in a few different areas, and it always ends up being the same shit. People bitching about the scene, instead of doing something to improve it.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's why I bought all the bands, and I'm shutting them down. Scene's closed, folks. Go see a movie.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:29, 'sam's a genuine gay, er.. guy' and your a genuine, oh nevermind... samuel, get on back to unfag park. chris get on back to what's racist.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Shit ... your points would be so much more valid if you were anonymous and your "reputation" wasn't at stake.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i read this correctly, i do believe an atari 2600 nerd just tell me to suck it.

well now i've heard it all-

napolean dymonite was way to empowering for some people.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, that was meant to posted under the treewave thread.

12:38 AM  
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