The best way to describe The Besnard Lakes’ A Coliseum Complex Museum is to say that things haven’t changed much. Their excessive approach to psychedelic rock remains quite the same as always, with layers stacked upon layers in every track and a constant threat of being overwhelmed by the amount of things going on at once. Being at the stage of their career where such a continued move could be a bigger risk than one would usually be willing to take, it comes off as a bit of a wrong step.
In truth, however, there’s a lot to enjoy about the album. The atmosphere of the album is simultaneously calming and transcendent, and almost every instrument and effect earns its place within the song. The vocals are consistently overwhelmed by the instrumentals, but most often in a way that enhances the effect of each song; this is especially true in the heavier rock focus of The Plain Moon, whose melodic vocals line up perfectly with the active part of the song’s stop-start structure, which also stands out as one of the better produced moments of the album. Alongside the vocals stealing the show on some of the tracks, the rest have their guitar riffs as their shining element; the solo that closes out Pressure of Our Plans serves as the best example, turning what was beforehand simply enjoyable into something much more compelling.
Despite all the good, it eventually meets expectations and becomes somewhat of a drag to listen to. As the album reaches Necronomicon, the noteworthy elements of tracks begin to disappear as they fade into each other, not standing out as bad but failing to offer any noteworthy enjoyable elements as well. The catchy vibes of The Bray Road Beast and The Plain Moon never find another place to shine on the remainder of the album—Tungsten 4: The Refugee attempts to recreate them, but never as well as the opener could—and the epitome of psychedelia Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound would act as a herald of the album’s decline if it weren’t followed by The Plain Moon.
The decline in energy and style ultimately leads to the downfall of A Coliseum Complex Museum. It finds itself straddling a line between being too much of the same and bringing enough energy to make up for it, leaving it sitting in an awkward position. It’s impossible to deny that the album has its enjoyable moments, but there’s also no point in ignoring that their sound has been sat on for too long. A Coliseum Complex Museum isn’t terrible, but does signal the need for change in The Besnard Lakes’ work.