sat 13/07/2024

The Besnard Lakes, The Garage | reviews, news & interviews

The Besnard Lakes, The Garage

The Besnard Lakes, The Garage

Shoegazing, prog-rock Montréal band are frankly awesome

Not The Arcade Fire: The Besnard Lakes deliver a live assault

Although The Arcade Fire are currently occupying column inches on the back of their new album The Suburbs, it’s fellow Montréal band The Besnard Lakes that are over here, playing dates on the back of their recent third album The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night. Both bands share a fondness for a full-on live assault that leaves audiences reeling.

But beyond that and the geography, The Besnard Lakes are a different proposition, taking their cue from the fuzz and distortion of shoegazing, mixing it with a muscular rock that’s as much Led Zeppelin blast as Neil Young guitar flash.

The Besnard Lakes are also out on limb. As a non-prog-rock band that record concept albums, they’re a rarity. Before the show, their co-leader, singer and guitarist Jace Lasek – his wife Olga Goreas also sings, plays bass and contributes songs – explained his attraction to the concept album.

“Concept albums were great things,” he enthused. “What has been lost is putting a record on in a room you’ve built around your records. The concept album is like reading a book, it conjures images. We want to tell a story, it’s influenced by what I liked when I was young. I want to get into that world of the concept. Our last album The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse was about a retired spy living in modern times, but he’s harking back to when he was active in the Sixties during the Cold War. I invented the story to give me ideas for songs and write from the perspective of him being active and being involved in wars and espionage. With The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night, it’s a character development. This time I wanted to get into the character from …the Dark Horse’s head. It’s about a fictional war. It could be a war against cities, countries, people’s minds. We’re living in a limbo world now, and any discussion about war seems pertinent.”

Joined on stage by guitarist Richard White and drummer Kevin Laing, Lasek and Goreas made a forceful case for their fiction-based songs. Their set follows winning outings from unknown north-London four-piece The Dead Wolf Club (a male-fronted early Siouxsie and the Banshees filtered through a My Bloody Valentine sensibility) and fellow Canadians Final Flash (Crazy Horse/ Neil Young with hints towards The Strokes).

Ranging through both …the Roaring Night and …the Dark Horse, The Besnard Lakes eschewed studio texture and played for impact – at mind-melting volume. “Devastation” rolled, steamroller-like, off the stage, with Lasek’s and Goreas’s sweet harmonies tempering the force. Even a relatively restrained, skeletal song like “Chicago Train” gained power, especially from being underpinned by Laing’s John Bonham-like thud. Yet throughout, the delicate, wispy even, sensibility that brings The Besnard Lakes their post-shoegazing aura remained. These mysterious, oblique songs are given an added edge by Lasek’s choirboy falsetto. The contrast between light and heavy is at the core of their live show.

Following …the Roaring Night’s “Albatross”, a voice shouts “fucking awesome”. A solitary lighter is held aloft. Dry ice puffs over the crowd. The musical gauze of shoegazing has been recast as stadium rock. And after two encores, it’s clear The Besnard Lakes could make any audience decide that they are just that – “fucking awesome”.

Listen to "Like the Ocean, like the Innocent", below (YouTube):

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