A Coliseum Complex Museum
Reviewed by: Max Miller
The Besnard Lakes are a psychedelic indie rock sextet from Montreal, known for such albums as The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse and The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. Unfortunately, the trend of naming their albums like Steven Seagal movies died out shortly thereafter, so their fifth LP is known, simply, as A Coliseum Complex Museum.
The Besnard Lakes came into prominence around the turn of this decade based on the then-hip strengths of fusing post-rock and ambient electronica textures with rootsy psychedelic rock and…being Canadian? Since the advent of their two aforementioned Polaris Prize-nominated breakthrough albums, they have mainly spent their time retreading the ground they’ve already covered, in seeming opposition to fellow Canuck Neil Young’s age-old advice, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
The formula on A Coliseum Complex Museum is established on opener “The Bray Road Beast,” and is rarely strayed from over the course of the record’s eight tracks. The husband-and-wife duo of guitarist/vocalist Jace Lasek and bassist/vocalist Olga Goreas layer pretty, heavily-processed vocal melodies over a swirling bed — keyboards, bass and no fewer than three guitars — which couldn’t be more boring if you threw in a horn section and a couple dozen more six-strings. “Psychedelic” is, of course, the operative vibe here, and you get everything you’d expect from a band that feels the need to mention in their official bio that Goreas has been studying sigils and the occult and that Lasek was “a teenage ghost hunter.”
There are brief moments that draw my attention from the ponderous monotony of this record, like the uplifting post-chorus of “The Plain Moon,” or the uncharacteristically more restrained, catchy “Necronomicon.” Even the completely conventional outro solo of closer “Tungsten 4: The Refugee” provides a respite from the shimmering sameness. However, for the most part, A Coliseum Complex Museum is all glitter and no gold.
I’d like to take a moment to step back. When I began this review, I held no ill will toward the Besnard Lakes, beyond the fact that their album far from thrilled me. And yet by the time I’ve had to write a couple hundred words elaborating on such a dull sound, here I am at the bottom of a well of snark. Take everything I’ve said with a grain of salt; A Coliseum Complex Museum is really not terrible or anything. It’s just so damned boring. And, frankly, I’m bored of being bored. Next.