Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake have charted their own journey for over a decade, refusing to abide by the rules of mainstream radio and music conglomerates. Their decision is unsurprising to those who have followed their progression from a folk-leaning indie band to one that creates enrapturing indie rock that infuses together shoegaze, post-rock, and dream pop. From their early days, Hazel Wilde, Paul Gregory, Ol Ketteringham, Bob Allan, and Angela Chan demonstrated they were the thinking person’s band. They sang about economic crises, the dissolution of communities and families, and the importance of unity to combat our fears. They are sociologists, philosophers, economists, and, in the case of Wilde, poets masking as a band. Lanterns on the Lake are one of the great collectives of this century, and they validate this their newest LP, Spook the Herd.
Spook the Herd is a lush record that never gets too loud nor goes overboard with the theatrics. It is meticulously composed and orchestrated with every element contributing to breathtaking soundscapes that surround Wilde’s soothing vocals and lyrics. The opener “When It All Comes True” sets the tone with its dazzling, shoegaze approach. As Chan’s viola weeps and Gregory’s guitar soars, Wilde describes one person’s attempt to be calm in the face of the irrational fear that has gripped the majority:
“One more last look / But don’t set me off
On the blue lights / That spooked the herd
But I’ll keep my word when it all comes true”
This sense of being one’s anchor is further articulated as “Every Atom” grows into its majestic crescendo. The cinematic “Swimming Lessons” furthers the idea of unbreakable bonds during unstable times:
“When they come for us / Pull me in tight
When they take their aim / Repeat after me when I say
I think the time has come to let go of the side”
While those songs address perception and possibilities, Lanterns On The Lake tackle other issues more directly. The sombre “Before They Excavate” deals with the current environmental crisis. Wilde targets decision-makers’ inaction and “thoughts and prayers” with subtly sneering lyrics. She sings, “This whole planet could go up in flames tonight / And your small talk is just about killing me here”. The slow-throbbing brilliance of “Blue Screen Beams” addresses our obsession and reliance on social media, and how those outlets now shape our realities. Meanwhile, the simmering edginess of “Baddies” takes on those who spew hate and wish to silence the oppressed. Wilde’s voice possesses a sharp bite, as though she’s singing directly to those hate-mongering fascists and bigots.
But like all previous Lanterns On The Lake albums, both hope and light shine on occasion. “This Is Not A Drill” provides renewed optimism despite the guns and sinners that surround us. Immediately, Wilde tell us to “Look out, there’s a dreamer on the loose / Spinning wild, skinny tales of youth”. Later she sings, “I never thought I would be the one / That would be saving you”. Despite her words, the band have, for a brief moment, opened our minds and eyes. They warn us of the forthcoming doom but stoke our shared belief that we can overcome before it’s too late. That we can still dream big of better days to come.
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