Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Van Occupanther

So I was taking a look at my initial review of Midlake’s album The Trials Of Van Occupanther and figured I was probably overly harsh or dismissive. It’s true that when I first listened to the record last Summer, I was rather nonplussed – especially considering the effusive praise that they were getting everywhere else – but having revisited the record in anticipation of their show at Lee’s Palace on Monday, I can say I now have a greater appreciation for the record’s charms. It’s still steadfastly 70s soft rock (though I’ve never listened to Fleetwood Mac so I can’t comment on those oft-repeated comparisons) but certainly strong enough to stand up without being propped up by nostalgia.

Which brings us to Monday night. Opening the tour was fellow Texan Annie Clark who plays guitar for The Polyphonic Spree but plies her trade solo as St Vincent. Playing without a band, Clark’s set was quirky and engaging, showcasing her formidable guitar skills (equal parts jazz and post-punk) and off-kilter songwriting that goes from delicate to deranged in a heartbeat. Her scattershot banter about being in Canada for the first time was also greatly entertaining. I look forward to seeing St Vincent again next month in Austin, as she will be playing Hot Freaks inside at the Mohawk on Friday, March 16 at 2:30PM. End plug.

If there was such a thing as a charisma-o-meter, Midlake would rate somewhere around -10 (the scale is whatever you imagine it to be). This is simply a fact, and the band probably wouldn’t dispute it even if they were able to find their way out of the small fortress wall they built across the front of the stage with their banks of keyboards. But don’t think that this meant that it wasn’t a good show – far from it, actually. Despite the fact that the video projector was more prominent on stage than any of the players, they still but on a great show thanks pretty much entirely to the strength of their songs and musicianship.

Live, they sound almost as smooth as they do on record but with a little less of the studio sheen that so immediately identifies them as disciples of that particular decade (you know the one). Though they couldn’t reproduce the multitracked layers of vocals on Van Occupanther, they still sounded pretty damn good with the two- and three-part harmonies they could pull off live. With the aforementioned supply of keyboards and synths on hand and some very tasteful and tasty guitar work, they brought pretty much the whole of Van Occupanther as well as some older material to life, seemingly preferring to soundtrack the odd visuals projected behind them rather than be the focus of attention themselves. But again, I’m not really complaining – my appreciation for the album, which had been growing steadily over the past few weeks, reached a new level after seeing the band live.

And as a footnote, I was quite amazed at how packed Lee’s Palace was for a Monday night. I didn’t piece together why until I overheard a few people in the audience mentioning Jason Lee. Then it all made sense (third paragraph). Now why Jason Lee would have so much sway over people is another question entirely. But I digress. The Boston Globe talks to the band about being stuck in the ’70s.

Photos: Midlake, St Vincent @ Lee’s Palace – February 12, 2007
MP3: Midlake – “Roscoe”
MP3: Midlake – “Young Bride (CWL Remix)”
Video: Midlake – “Roscoe” (YouTube)
Video: Midlake – “Young Bride” (MOV)
MySpace: Midlake
MySpace: St Vincent

The Gateway has words with Josh Ritter, in town tomorrow night for a solo show at the Horseshoe.

Chart brings word of a rather star-studded Go-Betweens tribute album. Tribute records are kind of played out but I have to say – if anyone deserves one, it’s the Go-Betweens and with the talent involved, there’s no reason it can’t be excellent.

My Mean Magpie follows I Heart Music’s lead and posts some Royal City rarities of his own.

Stylus defends Terry Gilliam’s oft-reviled The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, and I say hear hear. I’ve always loved that film and even if it’s not perfect – or really, far from it – it’s hardly the travesty that some would make it out to be.

So fun fun fun – my 300GB hard drive, which holds all my music and photos and isn’t even a year old, is dying very quickly. I’m getting a “Windows – Delayed write failed” error intermittently but more and more frequency. I *hope* there’s enough life left in it to get all my files off, but it won’t be easy and it sure as hell won’t be fun. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate technology lately? ‘Cause I do – I really really do.

By : Frank Yang at 7:54 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Bob says:

    I throughly enjoyed myself at that show as well. Have you ever heard a band member sound that sincere when talking about how much they enjoyed playing your town? He might say that to all the towns but I bought it. I also managed to get a few good pics at the show as well, which is rare on my cheesy little Sony camera. And I also hate technology.

  2. Thierry says:

    I’ve already written to a friend about this show, so I’ll just repost (for the most part) what I told her:

    I thought St.Vincent was shockingly good – Bjork meets Andrew Bird, maybe? She has a very interesting voice, is incredibly charming, her songs are full of vivid lyrics, and she can flat-out play! The tour EP is also well worth picking up for a lovely cover of Jackson Browne’s "These Days". I suspect the buzz surrounding her will be deafening before very long. I would advise people who are seeing shows on this tour to get there early and not miss her set…

    Midlake sounded great too, and seemed genuinely appreciative of the large sold-out crowd that showed up at Lee’s Palace on a bone-chillingly cold night (I agree with Bob – they seemed very sincere, especially since they don’t seem like the kind of guys to throw out gratuitous banter left and right). The music sounded gorgeous – warm and comforting, and perfectly suited for a cold winter night. They weren’t flashy and rarely spoke, but there was something old-fashioned about their songcraft, carefully precise playing and harmonies and attention to detail that made their hour-and-fifteen-minute set fly by. My first reaction after the show was that they seemed like a refreshing throwback to the 1970s not only in their sound, which often recalls soft-rock touchtones such as Fleetwood Mac and Bread (or CSN&Y, for their impeccable harmonies, and Grandaddy, on their earlier songs), but in the very idea of five regular-looking guys taking to the stage and quietly going about their craft of playing pristine pop songs, with little care for pomp or flash. They have very little stage presence, and at times the projections of old film clips made it feel like I was watching the Showcase Revue while playing their record, but it didn’t really make the show any less enjoyable. Again, this was a surprisingly strong set by a band I’d be very happy to see again – and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time around they play a much larger venue.

  3. thomaus says:

    Oh dear. Hard drive problems suck. I lost a 300 about a year ago, and lost a week and a half of photos. Get everything copied first. Then troubleshoot. I didn’t, and by the time troubleshooting didn’t work, everything was toast. Now all the photos get automatically backed up to a second drive. I’ve had to use the backup once, and it actually worked.

    The other depressing thing I heard is that CD-Rs and DVD-Rs have a limited lifespan. So that means I have to go to my archives, and copy everything onto new media to keep from losing it in the future. Tediously dull and annoying.

    Good luck with the hardware.

  4. Erika Herzog says:

    i just saw the midlake / st. vincent / the czars shows at bowery ballroom. i am amazed that people liked st. vincent — it was some of the more painful playing and intersong chatter i’ve experienced. the czars were freaking awesome — that guy can sing.

    i like your comments about midlake. people seem to either love or hate them, get them or don’t at all. i was around in the 1970s and there’s something even older than that about their music. i think the word that made the most sense was when the lead singer said he was so glad people liked music that was so pastoral. i think instead of classifying midlake as a 70s-influenced band, it’s probably more accurate to conjure up visions of pre-industrialization – 1891 or so….

    hope everyone takes the opportunity to see midlake live if they can. unassuming but quite wonderful show. they will also be on kexp march 8 for an instore, which you can get as a podcast or stream while it’s happening.

  5. Chaz says:

    I agree with Erika, well there are some instrumental Fleetwood Mac ispirations there the two bands share little else in common. I bristle when Midlake is referred to as a retro 70’s band, it feels cheap and dismissive to me. The soundscapes and sentiments take me to a different time.

    On the technology side of things I’ve been a Mac guy since 1997 and rarely cry the technology blues. In fact in ten years I’ve never made a customer service call.

  6. Brad says:

    Big drives are way more susceptible to problems. Don’t go beyond the 120GB mark when you replace it (get two, if you need). I went through three of the larger drives in less than a year, and have not had a problem for 2 since moving down in size.

  7. Me says:

    CD’s and DVD’s do have limited lifespans, although Taiyo Yuden media have an excellent reputation.

  8. Frank says:

    it was a hard drive failure – nothing to do with the OS. If it had been living in OSX’s gentle caress rather than Windows’ cold, dry mitts it would still have kacked.

    What’s next – "I’ve been Mac since 1995 and have never been attacked by killer bees. True story"

  9. Chaz says:

    No, the killer bee attack really happened….an unfortunate affair.

  10. woody says:

    Couldn’t agree more about Midlake. At first listen I dismissed but almost 6 months later, I find it in steady rotation.

  11. Lilianapix says:

    I’m photographing Midlake next week and didn’t know what to expect (I always research a band before shooting) but your posting really helped! Now I know *how* I will photograph them, which makes all the difference! I love your blog, btw!!