Midlake – Antiphon
One band. Three albums. Three different incarnations. The first, The Trials of Van Occupanther, was an up tempo, 70s-style album that contained one of the most hummable tracks of 2006, ‘Roscoe’. The second, The Courage of Others, was a drab, tuneless, utterly miserable affair, which took the courage of not just a few, but many, many others to listen to all the way through. The third and new album, Antiphon, is as different from its two predecessors as they were from each other. And it’s pretty good. The big change this time around is that the lead singer, Tim Smith, has departed the group. Up steps guitarist, Eric Pulido, to do the honours. There’s form here and little of it is very promising. Ray Manzarek replacing Jim Morrison in The Doors. Phil Collins replacing Peter Gabriel in Genesis. But Pulido bucks the trend and does a nice job. He doesn’t have the most distinctive or expressive voice in music, but he really suits Midlake’s sound. And it would be greedy to ask for more. Musically, familiar Midlake elements return. The flutes are back, as are the reedy-sounding synths. But what really distinguishes and transforms this album is the rhythm section. The drums in particular keep up a really good pace, turning what could have been yet more Courage-like dirges into great upbeat songs. The three opening tracks all have memorable hooks. At times, the temptation to let out their inner Steve Hackett gets the best of them, notably on ‘Corruption’ towards the end. But, happily, this is an album that gives you something to sing about. With so many Midlakes over the years, the best way to judge Antiphon is to think of it as the first album by a new band. If that were the case, would it stand out? Would Midlake be a band to watch? The answer to both questions would be a resounding ‘yes’. There’s still a sense that this new band called Midlake has more in the tank, perhaps by increasing the harmonising and accentuating the pop, but they’ve made a good start and their sophomore album will be one to look out for.