Plumbiferous Media

The Courage of Others – Midlake

Feb 7th 2010
One Comment
The Courage of Others
Score: 77

The Texan band Midlake released its third and newest album on the 1st. The Courage of Others is a heavily folk based album, with numerous rock and (older) prog elements clearly displayed, which is not terribly out of line for Midlake. And while much of the album is quite enjoyable, it has some serious flaws that prevent it from being the amazing album that Midlake clearly has the ability to record.

At the best parts of The Courage of Others, Tim Smith’s plaintive vocals evoke the profundity for which Midlake searches throughout the album, although it is occasionally possible to forget that Smith is actually singing, rather than intoning. For the most part, this occurs near the beginning of the album – “Acts of Man” is excellent, but, while the album is certainly good past that point, it never quite reaches that height again. However, the manner in which Smith’s voice and Courage‘s musical background combines is occasionally sublime and always interesting. After that point, Smith’s vocals are occasionally overcrowded by the sound, and, while there’s certainly still some merit (such as the unison near-duet of “Bring Down”) and some of what was great about the beginning of the album, it’s often hidden.

As a whole, Courage is lyrically well-matched to both Smith’s vocals and Midlake’s sound. An equal sense of melancholy and wonder fills Smith’s words as he weaves the descriptive tales filling each track – often contemplating nature, as with “Winter Dies:” “as the spring is made alive the winter dies / And the final cries of creatures are long behind.” With the rest of the album following in this manner, the lyrics of Courage are easily among the best parts of the album – always engaging and responsible for a great deal of the vision of the album.

The Courage of Others relies heavily on intricate guitar lines to accompany the vocals, along with occasional embellishments such as a line quietly running in unison with Smith. What makes Courage unique, then, is the extreme level of intricacy in many guitar lines, and, among other things, the perfect ability to seamlessly flow from, say, a guitar heavy to drum heavy section. In general, the chord and dynamic progressions are often written so as to emulate a near-classical sound, and the result is quite beautiful, paired with the passionate, but melodically serene vocals.

The largest problem with The Courage of Others, then, is a complete lack of general diversity. It would certainly not be fair to say that the album is effectively just one or two tracks repeated 11 times, and the entire album is absolutely worth listening to, but Midlake stays very, very centered within its carefully constructed subgenre. Some attempts are made to break out – a number of tracks start differently and eventually work their way back to the norm, and “Fortune” actually remains somewhat unique in its entirety, but for the most part, there are not that many easily discernible differences between most of the tracks.

The Courage of Others is not a perfect album, but it’s certainly an interesting one. Midlake’s well-composed combination of frontman Tim Smith’s vocals, excellent lyrics, and deep indie-folk instrumentals helps them to create several riveting tracks to begin the album. It is, however, unfortunate that Midlake couldn’t keep it up for the entire album. While the lyrics remain interesting throughout Courage, there’s a serious lack of diversity in sound. As a whole, Courage is quite good, but it is certainly not excellent.

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One Response

  1. Michael says:

    Certainly not my ass. This is a masterpiece.

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