The Besnard Lakes third album, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night
, begins with "Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 1: The Ocean," followed immediately by "Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent." Despite their more than a mouthful titling tendencies, the roughly nine minutes of this combo opener are the highlight of the album and almost worth the price of admission. Unlike their fellow Canadian intensity peddlers, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, The Besnard Lakes haven't forgotten to bring the hooks to their orchestral rock party. If you're going to make audiences wade through turgid guitar driven sludge, plodding tempos and buried, indecipherable vocals, it's nice to throw them a melodic bone every once in awhile, particularly if most of your songs take time to unfold. On "Like the Ocean," the Lakes succeed. When the male female call and response harmonies of husband and wife team Olga Goreas and Jace Lasek kick into the chorus, rising above the distorted guitar and pounding drums, it's massive, and sounds like some strange combination of Fleetwood Mac and Smashing Pumpkins. "Chicago Train" is compelling, with a gorgeous opening string section and "Albatross" is forceful and emotional, with Goreas declaring "There goes my man," in what feels like a Phil Spector wall of sound tribute both in style and sensibility.
In fact, the first half of the album is fine, full of stacked vocals, compelling structures and hypnotic force. But the second half fails, as if they've run out of energy. "And This is What We Call Progress" recalls Billy Idol's "White Wedding" and Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" without coming close to being as good as either of those classic rock staples. The albums other two parter, "Land of Living Skies" is a minor key morass that saps the good will they've established on the beginning of the record.
You can't blame The Besnard Lakes for shooting for epic majesty. But bands like Radiohead and Arcade Fire know that to deliver these goods, you'd better have the songs and some musical diversity to boot. Why wait ten minutes for the epiphany, when you can have it in five? -Dan Siegler
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MP3:"Albatross" (The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night)
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