THE BESNARD LAKES | LIVE REVIEW
The Globe, Cardiff, Tue 30 May
There’s a point approximately 50 minutes into tonight’s performance when suddenly it all adds up and the penny finally drops. The Besnard Lakes’ frontman Jace Lasek has already mentioned that they will be playing two distinct sets; thus far, material from remarkable second album The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse has been mysteriously shunned; that LP is this year celebrating its 10th birthday. Yes, it belatedly dawns on me that they’re going to treat us to my favourite record of the last decade in its entirety. Given that all this is taking place within walking distance of my house and only a day after I first discovered they were even in town (if only there were a local listings mag to publicise such things, eh?), eager anticipation and giddy excitement are most definitely the order of the day.
Over those first 50 minutes, The Besnard Lakes have effortlessly constructed a solid plinth on which the … Dark Horse songs can sit – Necronomicon from last year’s A Coliseum Complex Museum proving a particularly magnificent live beast. But the instant Lasek breaks into the opening vocals and strums of Disaster, it’s all about the most essential album in their back catalogue – the one on which their unique trademark synthesis of rich and shimmering My Bloody Valentine guitarscapes, sweet vocal harmonies, classic rock, woozy psych and proggy Americana is most stunningly realised.
If Disaster is impeccable, then For Agent 13 – whose gorgeous swell and release remains just as jawdropping all these years later – is even better. There follow the gloomy And You Lied To Me, one of many Besnard Lakes tracks to completely redefine the meaning of epic, and Devastation, a rousing and righteously angry sonic cousin of Wake Up by fellow Montrealers Arcade Fire that is given full-blooded expression.
Though … Dark Horse is undeniably front-loaded, there’s no disputing the quality of its second half. Ride The Rails comes across especially well and Cedric’s War is as splendid a homage to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as you could ever possibly wish for. Any initial disappointment that the latter – … Dark Horse’s upbeat final track – isn’t entrusted with the responsibility for bringing the curtain down is obliterated by the song to which that honour does fall, Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt. 2.
With A Coliseum Complex Museum and its lead single Golden Lion in particular, The Besnard Lakes deliberately sought to condense their craft, presumably in a bid to be more accessible and appealing to the popular palate. It didn’t work; as usual, sadly only the critics and the hardcore faithful took any notice. Of the two tracks on new EP The Besnard Lakes Are The Divine Wind, the first (Laura Lee) suggests that they continue to harbour hopes of wider popularity, while the second (The Divine Wind) is pretty much business as usual – which is to say sumptuous, slow-burning and brilliant. Whichever path they now choose to take, it’s a safe bet that the results will be spectacular.
words BEN WOOLHEAD