The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse

Posted: July 27, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music
The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse

The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse

Sometimes, things are meant to be.  My “engagement” at age 20 was certainly not one of them. A story for no other time, at least on this blog. However, my life is not entirely without magic. Occasionally, I have reason to believe in kismet. It was January 2007 and I was reading Under the Radar magazine or Paste or one of those type of things. There was a preview section and in it were The Besnard Lakes from Canada. Their sound was described as Beach Boys meets David Lynch or some approximation of that. I have no love for the Beach Boys but I loved the music in David Lynch projects (courtesy of Angelo Badalamenti) and bands from Canada not named Rush. This record, their second, was also to feature Sophie Trudeau, violinist for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Sold.

I remember being instantly intrigued and determined to find this CD. This was right before my vinyl conversion. The search ended pretty damned quick as the album, The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, wasn’t due out until the next month. Mind you, I hadn’t even heard a thing from these people yet but I was champing at the bit.

I found the band’s MySpace page (yeah, it was 2007) and listened to the track they had posted called “Devastation“. A more apropos name for a song had never existed. This song laid to waste every other musical thing that was out there at that moment. My entire landscape was leveled. What sheer power? The jolt I felt hearing that song was like nothing I felt since I had become an adult – adolescent, though, I did act.

At that time, there was a music store in Willowbrook located in a shitty little strip mall called Mojo Music. I feel bad now that I didn’t start collecting vinyl again while they were still around. They had a ton. I feel less bad because I once applied at the store that the owner, Al, used to manage in Downers Grove called Music Warehouse. I never even got a callback. Why doesn’t anyone want me to work in their music store? It’s like no one wants me to have a job where I’d be happy.

Music Warehouse was where my previously mentioned buddy Joe and I would rifle through their CDs and buy them based on their covers. Joe always picked better than I did. He’d get stuff like Lacuna Coil’s In a Reverie, while I would end up with Macabre’s Dahmer. I was happy when they closed because I scored a lot of great deals there at the end. In spite of my grudge, Mojo became my primary music source.

I was looking through their used bin some January day when the unthinkable happened. The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse was sitting in this bin, I believe priced at $3.99. Surely, this couldn’t be. The album wasn’t to come out for another month, two days before my 28th birthday. But there it was with a hole punched through the barcode. I had seen this before when I worked at my high school radio station, until I was thrown off for allowing a guest to curse. If only they knew some of the vulgar stuff I had played on the air when they weren’t paying attention. This was a radio promo copy.

Al confirmed this by saying that he knew a guy that worked at some local station and he would bring in boxes of promos that were never going to get airplay and trade them in for records he wanted. Great racket but what a short-sighted dumbass. How could anyone listen to this and just toss it aside? I had only heard “Devastation” and I knew full well that was a fucking perfect song, maybe not for radio since radio was stupid. That guy was just a cog in a larger dysfunctional machine. They just couldn’t grasp what I already knew, despite not even hearing the whole CD: this was going to be one of the greatest albums ever.

I gladly threw Al my four bucks and listened. For once in my life, I had built something up so much in my mind only to not be disappointed. I passed this melodic masterpiece to anyone that would listen. I found a couple of takers and they wholeheartedly agree. Joe and I saw them play at Schubas where the band was also running their merch table. I had brought my CD to listen to in the car and that about getting it signed but handing over a radio promo seemed unseemly. I bought the CD directly and singer/guitarist Jace Lasek signed it. Their show was jaw-dropping, everything I could have wanted. Their music is hypnotic and leaves me awestruck.

I eventually got around to buying their album on vinyl. If they put it on 8-track, I’d fucking buy it. Despite its young age, it is easily in my top 25 albums of all-time. I want the world to know of their greatness and hope for their success but, like all music snobs, I secretly harbor the wish that they never grow out of the imaginary bubble that I keep them in. They are nice Canadian folk, though, so I do wish them the best. They’ve already given me theirs.

  1. Gigi Coan says:

    Well, I like whatever you’ve played at the store, so I will have to check out their back catalog.

  2. Gigi Coan says:

    And I also remember Mojo Music—what a flashback! Sound Warehouse never gave me anything of value except the Ordinary World Maxi-Single. They never had a damn thing I wanted.

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