A pleasing, if occasionally indulgent, fourth LP from the Seattle five-piece.
Chris Beanland 2012-09-05
You wonder where music would be without love to inspire it. The biological impulse to breed (or not even quite that), the longing, the despair, the crushed dreams. This atomic bomb of emotions has been the spur to so many songs.
Songs about love are immediate. They touch us, we empathise, we relish the candour. Heartbreak on the 101 is just such a song. This break-up lament concludes Mirage Rock with some style. Ben Bridwell's purred lyrics let us into his world, and this unlocking of a secret door is one of Band of Horses' selling points. They follow in a long tradition of winsome American troubadours, reminiscing about broken hearts with a guitar and a frown, from Woody Guthrie to Neil Young.
And even more successful moments emerge on this, the band's fourth album. Two upbeat affairs stand out in particular. On Feud, Bridwell wails “I want you to faaail,” and we are caught in agreement with him: whatever and whoever wronged him should be righted. Knock Knock is the album's other bookend, a glorious stomp kicking off proceedings, lifted from the ordinary by spectacular choruses. Its chutzpah impresses. This is a resolutely American record.
But throughout Mirage Rock there is a sense that perhaps too much has been thrown into the mix – a common problem as bands get bigger and inevitably splash more dollar bills on studio indulgences. Bridwell seems like the kind of guy who might well yell: “I got a fever... and the only prescription is more cowbell!” Cowbell, thankfully, is not writ large on this record. Proggy meanderings, sadly, sometimes are.
Bridwell's wordplay can also be confusing on occasions. The singer has confessed in interviews that the words just come to him, and sometimes he can't even remember what a song is about. There are times when, as a listener, you're left scratching your head and wondering what it was that Bridwell was starring at through the fogged-up window of a roadside diner in the middle of nowhere.
Still, despite some odd uses of language on them, tracks like Shut-In Tourist and Everything's Gonna Be Undone will undoubtedly keep fans of this enduring band more than happy.