MIDLAKE – The Courage Of Others (Co-op)

It has been quite a few years since I was captivated by Midlake’s last album ‘The Trials Of Van Occupanther’, and finally we have the follow-up from the Texan five-piece. The first thing you notice from the opening ‘Acts Of Man’ is that the music has a folkier feel to it than before, with more emphasis on the acoustic guitars than the electric. The luscious harmonies are still intact, though, and ‘Acts Of Man’ is as good as anything that they have done so far. ‘Winter Dies’ does feature some electric guitar, but it doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through the song, where the sudden eruption of sound makes even more of an impact. ‘Small Mountain’ marks the first real appearance of the guitar sound that marked ‘Roscoe’ out as a Midlake classic, and the whole song has a lazy, rolling feel to it through which the guitar weaves its magic. ‘Core Nature’ is another gentle ballad, beefed up slightly by the subtle guitar-work, while ‘Fortune’ is pure folk, all picked acoustic guitar and mournful vocal, but still a gem. ‘Rulers, Ruling All Things’ is a more typical Midlake song, with its acoustic opening gradually giving way to the full band sound of the chorus, and enhanced with some atmospheric flute towards the end. ‘Children Of The Grounds’ has some beautiful guitar-work and a hook-laden chorus, but the lyrics might just be a bit too dark to offer it up for single consideration, while ‘Bring Down’ is another slow-building epic, starting off gently with acoustic guitar, and building up with the rest of the band joining in, before things quieten down for some nice flute to ease us out of the song. ‘The Horn’ is almost heavy rock compared to the rest of the album, with the band expending more energy on this song than on any other we have heard so far. Being Midlake, though, this does not means raging guitar duels, but just a fuller sound with the whole band playing as one and making a song that is destined to become an anthem for them. The title track has an enigmatic lyric which could be either historical or autobiographical, set to a brooding soundtrack of harmony vocals overlaid with discordant guitar lines. A great song, and even in this exulted company it stands out as one of their best. ‘In The Ground’ rounds off this superb album with another track that starts deceptively slowly and then builds to a crescendo before gradually drawing to a restrained close. I knew right from the first couple of songs that I would love this album, but I didn’t realise just how much until I had heard the whole thing. This record is an absolute joy from beginning to end, and if ‘The Courage Of Others’ doesn’t propel Midlake into the major leagues then there is no justice in this world.
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