Michigan’s Ben Schneider, the driving force behind Lord Huron, is a man with a grand, multi-media vision and a penchant for the wide open spaces of the mythic American West. This debut long-player arrives with additional short films and ‘imagined novels’ by mysterious fictional wordsmith George Ranger Johnson, designed, according to Schneider, to create “a world with its own mythology”.
For all that, Lord Huron is, at heart, a rootsy, all-American affair, albeit with added sonic dimensions. It offers an ingenuous, prairie-wide signature that’s closer to the numinous folk-rock of Fleet Foxes than any self-consciously ‘arty’, pan-genre peregrinations.
Indeed, the kinetic, major chord assault of opener Ends of the Earth very much sets the tone for an album which inexorably lassos the listener with it soaring, Technicolor harmonies (which threaten to, but never quite turn into a full choral yodel), glinting, reverb-soaked guitars and propulsive rhythms. At times, it’s like listening to urgent country music emanating from the dusty knave of a vast gothic cathedral.
There is innovation aplenty here, in fact. The opening to The Man Who Lives Forever is based around beautiful, interleaved gamelan chimes – miles away from folk-rock central casting. Elsewhere, subtle, iridescent electronic elements weave in and out of the plangent superstructure, adding genuine cinematic texture to music that already, inevitably, summons the gallant desert spirit of Sergio Leone and Sam Shepard.
Lyrically, Schneider certainly occupies the persona of the classic, questing ‘Wild West’ loner, keeping things to almost sound-bite-like simplicity (“I walk by a moonlit lake / A cold wind blows and my bones start to ache,” goes the title track). For all his novelistic ambitions, uncomplicated song titles such as Time to Run and I Will Be Back One Day hardly suggest profound literary meta-texts. But that’s just fine, because these are not so much ‘songs’, in the traditional sense, as mini screenplay scenarios, dusty-booted vignettes of life and love on the edge of a scenic wilderness.
Ultimately, God is less in the details, here, and Lonesome Dreams’ success lies largely in the irrefutably vaulting sweep of the music and the ineffable air of melancholy-dented redemption which it so effectively conjures.
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