Today magisterial Montreal psych rock band The Besnard Lakes announce the January 29 release of their new album, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings. The 72-minute suite marks the first release via their new labels —Fat Cat Records in the US, Flemish Eye in Canada— and today they reveal the LP’s first single “Raindrops” by way of a video that was shot by Joseph Yarmush. They share “This song and video details a psychedelic flight through the mind while deep in an altered state. The song lyrically references the death of Mark Hollis from Talk Talk (“Garden of Eden spirited”) and also describes the idea of evolution determining the story of the Garden of Eden.” Watch/listen here
Contemplating the darkness of dying and the light on the other side, The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is the group’s sixth album. After 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum the Besnards and their label decided it was time to go their separate ways, leading the band to question whether to even continue the project at all. What use is a band with an instinct for long, tectonic tunes – rock songs with chthonic heft and ethereal grace, five or 10 or 18 minutes long? The answer: “Who gives a shit!.” Ignited by their love for each other, for playing music together, the sextet found themselves unspooling what has become the most uncompromising recording of their career. Despite all its grandeur, it honors the very essence of punk rock: the notion that a band need only be relevant to itself.
For The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings The Besnard Lakes dispensed with a timeline and instead took all the time they needed to conceive, compose, record and mix the album. Some of its songs are old, resurrected from demos cast aside years ago. Others were literally woodshedded in the cabin behind Lasek and Goreas’s “Rigaud Ranch” – invented and reinvented, relishing this rougher sound. Some of that distortion makes its way into the final mix: an incandescent crackle that had receded from the Besnards’ more recent output.
The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is a double LP. “Near Death” is the title of the first side. “Death,” “After Death,” and “Life” follow next. It’s a journey into (and back from) the brink: the story of the Besnard Lakes’ own odyssey but also a remembrance of others’, especially the death of Lasek’s father in 2019. Being on your deathbed is perhaps the most psychedelic trip you can go on: in Lasek’s father’s case, he surfaced from a morphine dream to talk about “a window” on his blanket, with “a carpenter inside, making intricate objects.” That experience pervades the album.
In late 2020, as the world burns, there might be nothing less trendy than an hour-long psych-rock epic by a band of Canadian grandmasters. Then again, there might be nothing we need more.