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BNQT: Volue 1
BNQT Volume 1
Released 28 April 2017
Producer BNQT
Label Bella Union
Length 42:00
Genre Pop, indie rock
Website bnqtband.com

Looking for a fresh challenge outside the record-release-tour cycle, Midlake’s Eric Pulido decided to call on Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Fran Healy (Travis), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) and Jason Lytle (Grandaddy) to record an album as BNQT (pronounced banquet). The result is Volume 1, a ten track debut album made up of two contributions from each singer. The recording process was designed to fit the other member’s commitments and schedules; some songs created as ensemble studio recordings, others put together via file sharing over the internet.

The most striking thing about Volume 1 is its retro vibe, with songs mimicking various iterations of classic ‘70s bands. 'Restart' is pure glam rock, while '100 Million Miles' conjures up images of Pink Floyd with its spacey close harmonies and keyboard solo. 'Tara' has the band tapping into classic southern rock while 'L.A. On My Mind' pays homage to the Stones. Perhaps this decade was a fair and fertile middle ground where diverse artists could comfortably gel and Alex Kapranos’ psychedelic 'Hey Banana' provides a change of pace while still keeping the theme of the album intact.

On the whole the songs are solid, as expected for writers of this calibre, the dreamy 'Failing at Feeling' and the aforementioned '100 Million Miles' in particular being the earworm tracks. The production values and flow of the album can’t be faulted, Midlake deserve a lot of credit for their work in developing the ideas of the various singers into full blown songs, but restricting their palate to soft rock we miss out on the edgier elements of their collective back catalogue. Volume 1 is perhaps missing a killer song or two that would really set it apart as a classic but it’s a likeable album released just in time for the good weather.

Comparisons to The Travelling Wilburys are inevitable whenever established artists get together to form a super group, BNQT even seem to encourage such parallels given their split of two British and three American members and that they too named their debut, Volume 1. Anyone who has seen The True History of The Travelling Wilburys will understand the collaborative nature of that group with songs thrashed out over a number of days with all members in attendance for most of the recording sessions. BNQT miss that level of spontaneity or the sharing of lead vocals a la 'Handle With Care' or 'End of The Line', which might have been a better way to showcase the band rather than harmonies smattered throughout the album. Schedules may never allow it but getting all five lead singers (and John Grant who is confirmed for Volume 2) into a studio to workshop some song ideas could result in an album more akin to the sum of their parts. Instead we have a perfectly serviceable album that falls slightly short of the mark.

- Brian Kinsella