Bamnan and Slivercork

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The tricky thing about lo-fi music is that if you don't know in advance that it's a style that has deliberately been adopted, you may mistakenly suppose that it's just, well, bad. The final song on Bamnan and Slivercork, Midlake's debut album, is called "Mr. Amateur," with lead singer Tim Smith, whose nasal voice recalls Rufus Wainwright's, declaring, "I'm Mr. Amateur on the freeway/I'm Mr. Amateur with a cupcake," and the uninitiated, having listened to the disc's previous 43 or so minutes, might be inclined to agree. The sound quality is primitive and it's a match for the playing, which sounds like the first rehearsal by a bunch of musicians who just started learning to play last week. Ah, but that's the point! In fact, the five members of Midlake all attended the North Texas School of Music before forming the band, which has been playing out for several years. Their influences are clear; like so many others, they are obsessed by the early psychedelic pop days of 1966-1967. Bamnan and Slivercork sounds like a group of musicians trying to remake Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with toy instruments on a portable cassette recorder, that is, with even more impressionistic lyrics. It's a pose that requires the listener to be in on the joke. And now that you've been forewarned, you can go ahead and appreciate it for its offbeat charm.

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