Besnard Lakes Are The Live Review

This is a gig I’ve been looking forward to for ages. I’m not sure if it’s age, or the fact that this is the 100th gig I’ve put up on Songkick, but I’m starting to get a little bit weary of the whole live gig thing. But every time I’ve listened to “Albatross” or “Glass Printer” this year, the thought of hearing them through a big fuckoff set of speakers makes me a little bit excited. Funnily enough, this is a band that I know next to nothing about. If you asked me to describe them, all I could say would be “Canadian. Possibly hairy”.

Even their grandiosely epic album “…Are The Roaring Night”, which has shocked me by taking the core sound from their last record “…Are The Dark Horse”1 and pushed it to stratospheric heights and become a leading candidate as my Album Of The Year, hasn’t driven me to finding anything about them whatsoever. But, in fairness, I wasn’t quite expecting main man Jace Lasek2 to look like J Mascis’s maths teacher after taking a bunch of bad acid:

After the first couple of numbers, seeing Jace shake his hair like the very best headbanger listening to Black Sabbath in some West Midlands grimepit in 1973, I turned to Mrs Loftandlost and said “I’ve got a new hero”. Even better, this is a band who have decided that making serious, psychedelic acid-rock shouldn’t turn them into pretentious, prissy assholes. They are quite possibly one of the sweetest bands I’ve ever seen live. At the end of opener “Like the Ocean, Like The Innocent”, bassist Olga Goreas somehow, through the squalls of noise, says “Thanks”, wearing a huge smile.

Later, during an older number, Jake does the stadium rock classic trick of leaning away from the mike and lets some members of the crowd sing the vocals. He, the rest of the band, and us, all laugh heartily. Whilst I may have been expecting noise, guitars, My Bloody Valentine do peyote with Fleetwood Mac tunes, I certainly wasn’t expecting to be amused by the band. Even when the bass amp gives up the ghost during the encore, the band aren’t fazed, laughing and joking (see that, Mr Malkmus, you spoilt get?), and soon get by with a jerry-rigged set of cables.

Other than that, as a live act, they’re as you’d expect, only more so. Some songs, such as “Albatross”, become extended feedback-drenched wigouts before suddenly being pulled back into focus. Jake’s trademark bollocks-in-a-blender falsetto vocals are remarkably well sung, with the rest of the band providing able backing. Indeed, Olga’s singing is more affecting live than on record, which often isn’t the case. “Land Of Living Skies” takes a while to get going (with some dumbasses talking, as has become normal for a London gig. Shame on you), but when it does, it’s a shock when the song ends without an extended feedback-drenched wigout. You won’t hear me saying this often, but that was a shame.

“Glass Printer” leaves our ribcages shaking from the thundering bass. When “And You Lied To Me” finally appears, the band leave huge pauses after the chorus before firing back into the brutal verses. Most of the material stems from “…Are The Roaring Night”, and there are few shouts for older material. Although one wag does keep requesting “Life Rarely Begins With Tungsten Film #1”, which the band make a game attempt at playing during the encore (I think). This points to the band thinking the same as me, that the new record stands head and shoulders above what they’ve done before, and probably what most other bands have managed this year too. All in all, the evening is filled with the sound of rampaging stallions, the fury of a hurricane, interspersed with moments of sweetness and beauty. In a word, epic.

1 You have to love those titles. Brilliant, brilliant artwork too. I’ve love to see these on a proper vinyl sleeve.

2 I know so little about them that I had to look this up.

MP3: And You Lied To Me – The Besnard Lakes

MP3: Albatross by The Besnard Lakes

Buy “The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night” (CD/MP3)

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