Band Of Horses - Mirage Rock

How do you follow up an album like Infinite Arms? 2010’s critically acclaimed masterpiece that would eventually go on to be nominated for a Grammy. Where some bands would try to recapture lightning in a bottle and follow the same formulas, Band Of Horses have decided to strip back the sound that they spent three albums mastering.

The band decided to go for a more organic and vintage approach for their fourth album, Mirage Rock, employing the services of Glyn Johns - the legendary Producer who once crafted the sounds of The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan to name a few.

Mirage Rock starts in trademark Band Of Horses fashion - a euphoric, upbeat, Americana anthem in the vein of their classic tune Is There A Ghost. Knock Knock breathes joy into your heart and rhythm into your hips. With its audacious and catchy vocal harmonies, and guitar lines rhythmically stitched with hand claps, Ben Bridwell chants “Knockin’ on the door” until the song eventually fades to silence; the perfect start and the perfect 1st single.

From here the album then begins to limp through Nashville-esque obscurity. How To Live does its best to follow up the opener but the following, Slow Cruel Hands is an Eagles-light lament of time slipping away, yet instead of hitting their full potential, what this song ends up being is something more reminiscent of Paolo Nutini than of the influences they display so proudly on their sleeves.

It isn’t until Feud, some six tracks later, that the band feel inspired again. We have to endure the disjointed mess that is Dumpster World - a song in three parts. Part one is a plodding mimic of Neil Young’s cover of Horse With No Name that sounds so infuriatingly close it becomes frustrating when Bridwell doesn’t sing “It's good to get out of the rain”. Part two is an obscure tedious high school rock song, Bridwell ordering you thus: “Don’t pick up that trash. Put more of it on the floor.”  Before shoehorning itself back into the previous theme.

Thank god then for Feud, a much needed wake up and return to a more conventional Band Of Horses sound, injecting some much needed vitriol that commands your ears with its clever heavy strummed guitar patterns, and shouts of “This is just a freak show, wait till you see it from the inside.” Suddenly we remember what it was that made us fall in love with this band.

The album’s closer is the quite brilliant Heartbreak 101 - a song filled with beautiful orchestration and subtle moments of sheer inspiration. You wish through tear-filled eyes that the song would never end.

With the best songs seemingly book-ending the album as a whole, it’s the titles in between that let Mirage Rock down. Knock Knock will be an immortal fan favourite while Feud and Heartbreak 101 are a stark reminder of how great the band can be. Unfortunately, by the time they come around its too little too late.

Mirage Rock by band of Horses is out on the 17th of September via Brown/Columbia Records.