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Wild Horses Are More Exciting Than The Tamed...
on 17 September 2012
What makes Band of Horses (BoH) stand out from many other bands is their often experimental approach to their sound despite the record label's pressure to move them into the mainstream. This may be risky in terms of establishing stadium filling success and not all of it works. However, whilst other bands may stumble at this point, BoH have that uncanny knack of producing absolute gems from the simplistically yet intriguingly catchy `Is There a Ghost' to the more epic arrangements on `On My Way Back Home'. Over the years then, BoH, by deliberately straddling and resisting the mainstream have carved out a substantial and loyal following, continuing to pull original and memorable musical magic from the proverbial and potentially bland Americana trick bag.
Many professional critics reviewing Mirage Rock seem to be celebrating the production values Glyn Johns (who has worked with many of the greats such as the Beatles, The Who and Led Zeppelin) has brought to the album. Some even mention that Johns has helped rein in the group's experimental orientation, as if this was a bad thing that needed correcting. To me, if this is the case, as it would seem, then in doing so, this has killed the sound and dare I say the soul of the group and, whilst no doubt, BoH have much to learn from Johns, whom after all has a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they have for this album at least, finally crumbled under record label and producer pressure.
What has resulted is a musically accomplished, yet seemingly weak and lacklustre set of twelve songs, sitting well within the mainstream Americana bracket ready for consumption by the masses. Whilst melodically BoH is sort of still there, nothing remotely risky or quirky stands out and in terms of the albums as a whole; Mirage Rock all sounds the same, dangerously heading nowhere, literally a horse running without its rider. More worrying is that their sound has been firmed up into an almost folk/country rock Americana potentially treading the career killing waters of previous bands such as The Connells (who achieved major single success with the original and acoustic '74-'75 only to be discovered that the main thrust of their music was actually mainstream cannon fodder and promptly vanished into almost total obscurity afterwards.)
So, I have the utmost respect for Glyn johns, but, as a long, loyal fan of Band of Horses I would say; `can we have the old Band of Horses back please? They were much more interesting.'