Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Albums for Life: 16: Midlake: The Trials of Van Occupanther

So they came down from the north, carrying all they owned, with a basket full of food and clothes. They were stopped by a weekend raid, travelling the woods one day. They tried to put up a fight, but lost.

It reads a bit like the start of a Cormac McCarthy novel....
This is a strangely compelling album.
I've just heard about the death of Richie Havens and this music is surely inspired by his generation's bohemian influence. It has the whiff of patchouli oil in its 70s sodden folk rock; you can smell the sheepskin jacket that the ever present flautist is wearing. The Band, Fleetwood Mac and CSN&Y haunt the tracks.
Yet lyrically the songs have the ambience of a 19th Century Arcadian drama; quaint and proper; there's an almost religious rigor to these tales of pioneering, settling and community building. If they remade 'The Whicker Man' (they already did?) and reset it just off the Donner trail these guys would surely write the soundtrack.

It's otherworldly and strangely familiar; there's something very traditional in the musicality and something quite charming in the simplistic trust in, and love of nature:
For myself I must remind, that the woods are usually kind. We like the newness, the newness of all that has grown in our garden soaking for so long...
This is earnest, earthy, optimistic music that's rooted in the past, yet music that reaches forward. I'm unsure of what the concept is, but there surely is one.
I'd like to think that Richie Havens would have loved this album's vibe. 
It certainly makes me want for a better, bohemian lifestyle. 
Woodstock or Wooburn? 
That is the question...


  1. I think you'll find it's either Whicker's World or The Wicker Man. The Whicker Man sounds like a documentary about Alan Whicker, revealing an unsuspected fondness for pagan gods and running naked around some outer Hebride!
    I've been skirting around Midlake - have one album and have listened a few times and liked without really playing it enough to let it sink in. Heading into the cd mountain to find it.

  2. Well spotted Seamus; I shall leave the offending typo for future generations to marvel at.
    Actually, I think that Alan Whicker would have been a better choice to play the demented copper than Nicholas Cage.
    "Step away from the bicycle!"
    Turn in his grave? Edward Woodward would...

  3. Well, Alan Whicker's docs from America always had a slight "they really do this you know" edge, especially when showing some of the more unusual practices in America.
    I'm getting the script now. Alan Whicker is sent to report on the Burning Man festival. Unaware of its hallucinogenic properties he drinks a beverage made from the local cactus. The band playing on the main stage are Midlake. It was they who gave him the drink.
    Soon, he is being tattooed by a strange Gypsy woman who decides what the tattoo will be based on an ancient Tarot pack. The series of tattoos are all scenes from the festival, and as the film unwinds we realise that the scenes represented by the tattoos are actually happening.....

  4. I will, of course, be receiving a co-credit for this...
    Another 'Zelig': I see Whicker quite a lot at Nice airport. He's a queue jumper; just wanders to the front of any line; bus, cafe, departures. No-one say's anything except for me. "Oy Wikka" is my cry. He ignores me too. Entitled tosspot. You'd never see Palin pushing in...

  5. all while dressed in a smart blazer.

    I really liked this when it came out - especially head home. You are right it seems to come from an earlier time.