“Mirage Rock” is a piece of real Americana.
The fourth studio effort from Band of Horses is as close to finally capturing what founder and sole original member Ben Bridwell has been trying to accomplish since 2006’s “Everything All The Time.” Helping them accomplish this task is producer extraordinaire and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Glyn Johns.
Bridwell wrote in an biography on Amazon.com about working with Johns, “It was a natural fit: Given how much Glyn’s fingerprints were all over the parents’ record collections we grew up on, it’s not hard to imagine how Glyn influenced so much of not only our tastes and musical voices and personalities, but rock ‘n’ roll as we know it. Glyn is part of the fabric of this music, and it’s all been part of us since childhood.”
Johns, Bridwell and company create sounds that take the listener back to Woodstock and Laurel Canyon, all the while penning recession-era lyrics such as “Light a candle for the weak and the small/Goddamn it, there’s a lot of ‘em/You’d kinda think that in the modern world.” That stanza emanates from “Dumpster World,” one of the few regrettable songs on the album. It begins and ends with a dreamy Crosby, Stills and Nash vibe, while trying to pull off an angry, grungy middle section that doesn’t mesh.
The album begins on a much brighter note, however, with the rollicking, freewheeling “Knock Knock,” sure to become a standard opening song for the band in years to come. The song sets the tone for the album with a verse saying, “A ramshackle crew with something to prove/And a truckload of believe it.”
In a recent interview with contactmusic.com, Bridwell backed up these lyrics by stating, “It’s very loose and raw at times, but I think it also has its moments that hearken back to the older things we’ve done, while hopefully pushing forward … I don’t know, maybe letting our hair down a little bit.”
Indeed, Band of Horses is at their best when playing fast and loose on album standouts and future sing-along favorites such as “How To Live” and “Electric Music.” Incidentally, the group delivered a scintillating performance of “Electric Music” while opening for My Morning Jacket at Pioneers Park’s Pinewood Bowl concert series this summer. A few songs on here, like “A Little Biblical” and “Shut-In Tourist” would seem to be more effective if performed at a faster tempo, but Band of Horses members haven’t let their hair down all the way, yet. Despite this being Bridwell’s baby, his bandmates make themselves noticed with their vocal harmonies. While these guys will never be The Band, songs like “Slow Cruel Hands Of Time” and “Long Vows” pull off a modern take on classic American roots music that The Band perfected. Band of Horses still hasn’t completely mastered their ideal sound, but this is as authentic as it gets in 2012. As they put it so truthfully in “How To Live,” “Guess what, you’re getting old/You still gotta grow up.”