The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum

by Jim Harris Rating:6 Release Date:2016-01-22

The Besnard Lakes, named after a real lake somewhere, have always puzzled me with their sound. I have always wanted to quantify their music as rooted in some new-age shoegazing influence that borrows from Ride and MBV, and bands like that from the 90s, but not really. From the blatantly Beach Boy vocal harmonies (Jace Lasek, primary songwriter, is a huge fan) to the grand, majestic stretches of soaring guitars mingling with ornate bombastic drums and lavish flourishes of keyboards and other grand sounds, they come across, at their best, as keeping The Moody Blues alive and channeling the more pretentious moments of later Pink Floyd.  And at their worst, the plodding bigger-than-an-amphitheater sound is more than vaguely reminiscent of that Australian Pink Floyd cover band that tours internationally.

But this new one from TBL shouldn’t disappoint if this sort of glossy, coliseum sound is what you are after.  This band has a pedigree, as Jace Lasek has worked in the Canadian music scene with the likes of Wolf Parade and the New Pornographers, and has a recording studio in the Canadian wilds somewhere, and the slick immaculate production of virtually every song is evident.

The opening two tracks, ‘The Bray Road Beast’ and ‘Golden Lion’ have the band’s vocals matching the grandeur with high, unabashed Beach Boys refrains.  It’s soaring and beautiful.  The biggest problem is every song stretches to outstretch the previous one with even more musical opulence and depth meant to fill vast empty spaces, I guess. The middle songs, particularly ‘Pressure of Our Plans’ and the dazzlingly pretentiously titled, ‘Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound’ have the band settling into a bit more repetitious approach.  Tiresome is the word.  This band has been pretty much doing this same thing for ten years and the sort of low-tempo, bigger than life presentation, perhaps needs a light show to sit through. 

But what salvages the album somewhat are the last two songs, ‘Nightingale’ and ‘Tungsten 4: The Refugee’, as they seem a little less soaring, the vocals a little less high, and almost seem more interesting than the previous songs, as the latter song grooves a little blues even.  In short, The Besnard Lakes, while they have perfected this ornate, beautifully rich Canadian prog rock sound, it probably isn’t for everyone.  I’d like to see them take more chances, rip it out more, deviate from the formula a bit. As it is they are as precise and clean with their sound as the New Pornographers are with their sound.  And that leaves me a bit cold.

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