Midlake - The Trials Of Van Occupanther reissue album review

Ten years gone. Pastoral gem revisited

Midlake The Trials Of Van Occupanther album cover

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Although undoubtedly blessed with a patchy charm and intriguing mystique, there were few clues on Midlake’s 2004 debut Bamnan And Silvercork to suggest that a classic would be next on their timeline.

Initially flagged up by the lead single Roscoe, its rich, wistful pleasures had critics reaching for the thesaurus. Firmly planted in the idea-space of 1970s pastoral Americana/soft rock (though narratively nearer the 1870s), the pioneer ruralism of Thoreau rubs shoulders with blissed-out West Coast harmonies, CSNY, rolling piano, scuffed guitars and the English folk sensibilities of Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny et al.

Further fortified by the precise and plaintive intonation of original vocalist Tim Smith – possessor of a voice of rare sweetness – the album’s bearded, flannel-shirted influence can be plotted through to Fleet Foxes, Band Of Horses, Jonathan Wilson and other arcadian-inclined dreamers.

Its greatest achievement however is how utterly authentic and credible it sounds, mercifully free of copycat trappings, try-hard stylings or retro-hucksterism. It remains the band’s high point, an almost perfect one-off.

Tim Batcup

Tim Batcup is a writer for Classic Rock magazine and Prog magazine. He's also the owner of Cover To Cover, Swansea's only independent bookshop, and a director of Storyopolis, a free children’s literacy project based at the Volcano Theatre, Swansea. He likes music, books and Crass.