Band of Horses
Sep 18, 2012 Issue #42 - The Protest Issue
At this point in Band of Horses' story arc, Ben Bridwell is the sole remaining member from the days of their debut Everything All the Time, and one of only two holdovers from their breakthrough Cease to Begin. Mirage Rock is by roughly the same unit that put together the underwhelming Infinite Arms, and continues the shifts in direction that started there.
It's natural that artists should gravitate toward sounds and formulas that have worked so well for them in the past; in contrast, Mirage Rock works so hard to force new ideas and different styles that it barely resembles the same group we heard six years back. Gone are the soaring moments; the high, grandiose choruses that marked such tracks as "The Funeral" or "Is There a Ghost," replaced with a more blunt and vanilla modus operandi. The heavy guitar riffs and shouted backing vocals in "Dumpster World" leave a strange, unexpected punk-pop aftertaste. The sung-spoken "Heartbreak 101" is another odd fit, overly confessional almost to the point of whining. The lyrics are so straightforward here, begging the question of whether the words on the earlier records were really that understated, or if the more complicated arrangements and busier mixes just left more to the imagination.
Their old qualities do pop up occasionally. "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" and "Shut-In Tourist" have the sweet, soft harmonies—once a trademark, now barely present—of the gentle ballads that are losing ground to the less interesting, more traditionally pop numbers. It's hard to fault a band for embarking on new musical paths, but the results are so watered down that one may start to worry whether they're starting to lose their inspiration. If Infinite Arms was this band treading water, then Mirage Rock is the band sinking into mediocrity.
Author rating: 4/10
Average reader rating: 4/10