Premiere: Midlake Plays A New Tune(Goodbye Van Occupanther)

midlake_2013-500x294So since the release of Midlake’s The Courage Of Others I’ve been excited for a new Midlake album.  What’s that?  No, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy The Courage Of Others.  Well, maybe the first ten or so listens it was kind of a bummer for me.  But eventually those songs’ downtrodden and mopey flute-tastic magic burrowed their way into my brain and I can enjoy the album now.  But when it was first released, man it was way too downtrodden and mopey.  And the fact that every song pretty much started out like the M.A.S.H. theme song(“Suicide Is Painless”) just made me want to call everyone “ferret face”.  So when it was hinted earlier in the year that those Denton fellas were readying a new album I was stoked!  It was like December of 2007 all over again when my wife  bought me both Bamnan and Slivercork and The Trials of Van Occupanther for my birthday.  It was a joyous birthday, indeed.  Homemade carrot cake, we’d finished our basement finally and were setting things up down there, and the whole birthday suit thing was…..well, I’m getting off track.  Point is, I’ve loved Midlake dearly since 2007 when I first heard their music.  Tim Smith had such a unique voice, and the band was tight as hell.  Plus, the vibe of 70s beanbag chair music, a good buzz, and a Renaissance fair in Sherwood Forest made the music all the more appealing.  The production was warm and dark, giving the rhythm section a life of its own.  Yes, it did sound like Fleetwood/McVie, and what’s wrong with that?  So anyways, this all leads up to right now and the big bombshell that recently came out about Midlake…

Tim Smith, their voice and main songwriter, left the band in November.

I couldn’t believe it.  The voice of the band was gone.  Now I’m not lessening the importance of everyone in this band.  They all made Midlake, Midlake.  But when you lose your singer/songwriter, and one with such a distinct voice, well it’s never good for business folks.  Still, I wasn’t writing this band off.  A good portion of their appeal to me was the music itself.  One of the best rhythm sections out there, the sometimes buzzing electric guitars, and the awesomely retro synths that would pop up on their first two albums.  That was magic right there.  But losing such a distinctive vocalist, well it’s like this amazing body that can do anything but has lost its face.  Regardless of how much it can do, there’s something integral that’s missing.

So after the initial shock of finding out the band was less one Tim Smith, I decided I was gonna back this band regardless.  Just because Smith wanted to take his ball and go home didn’t mean the rest of the guys had to go home as well.  They were more than willing to stay and write and record and continue the magic that is Midlake.  They did just that and in just a couple short months they are releasing their debut record with Eric Pulido taking over vocal duties.  A couple weeks ago they released the title track from the album and it’s good.  It’s really good.  Pulido has a great voice, and the band is tight as ever.  That rhythm section.  Man, that rhythm section.

Still, if I’m being completely honest I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I have imagined on more than one occasion what this song would sound like with Tim Smith singing on it.  I can’t help it, I’m just wired that way.  But regardless, it’s a great song and I can’t wait to get my hands on the album.  As for Tim Smith, he didn’t leave the band so he could concentrate on his career in ornithology, as has been reported.  Tim Smith left because his vision was different from the rest of the band.  Simply put, they grew apart.  It’s sad, but a part of life.  He’s started his own band -at this time consisting of just himself- called Harp.  Given that another problem between Smith and the band was that he tends to take a long time in the studio, don’t look for anything to be coming out anytime soon with Harp.

Okay, so there you have it.  There’s no hard feelings(apparently) between Smith and Midlake.  They just had to go their separate ways.  I think Midlake is going to end up sounding like a different band, while Smith’s Harp project is going to end up sounding a hell of a lot like Midlake.  It’ll be confusing, but we’ll figure it out.  Either way, there’s essentially two new bands to be excited about…so to speak.

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