Tuesday, 17 November 2009

BAND OF HORSES - Cease To Begin

I’ve just discovered this by accident, after looking on Amazon to see what fans of The Posies had also purchased. I’m a bit of a sucker for power pop and am always on the lookout for something new. First impressions suggest that Band Of Horses mightn’t be the Posies/Jellyfish/Brendan Benson inspired outfit I was looking to stumble upon. Those first impressions leave me feeling a little under-whelmed, as this is, perhaps, just a little too jangle-indie for my requirements.

‘Is There A Ghost’ starts well, mind, since the guitar work has a spaciousness that you might attribute to the likes of Mercury Rev and their penchant for the trippy. Sadly, despite that, once the vocal kicks in, it becomes apparent from early on, the song is lyrically empty and somewhat repetitive. Initial promise soon turns to slight disappointment. ‘The General Specific’ fares better as it comes with bar-room acoustics, piano and handclaps, reminding me somewhat of the more pastel sides of the much under-rated Blind Melon. There’s no obvious hook, but it feels pleasant and given the right setting may well be better than I’ve given it credit for. ‘Marry Song’ has a great, slow-burning arrangement with some retro-sounding keyboards which are the kind favoured by Shawn Smith; there’s an old-fashioned, yet current, feel about this which is clearly the band’s greatest strength – though the vocals are a little country and it takes a while before your ears adjust to the fusion of the styles. If this were on a Wilco album, people would probably hail it as songwriting genius.
‘Cigarettes, Wedding Bands’ showcases a noisier side of Band Of Horses. There are touches of The Posies (but rather more their indie-noise tendencies rather than their Jellyfish one) and the noisier end of Teenage Fanclub. Musically, it’s decent enough with the volume cranked, but those looking for interesting time signatures won’t find them here. ‘Window Blues’ is probably the strongest track, which revisits the slightly country sound and Wilco influence. It’s one of the few occasions where I hear a real heart and passion in the band’s sound and certainly one of the only times the album really hits the spot for me. If I were to recommend a track from the album as a first listen, this would be the one. ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’ is also very strong, but highlights how over the past couple of years, alternative music has become diluted. The tunes and melodies are easily accessible in a Coldplay style and it’s easy to imagine radio play. A few years ago, there’s no way these guys would be part of the Sub Pop stable.

I have a feeling that Band Of Horses might become quite popular if they haven’t already, but aside from occasionally reminding me of a few bands I have a passing liking of, there’s not much to keep me coming back for more. With that, I’m off again to continue my search for some good old fashioned power pop.

November 2007
*Since writing, Band Of Horses have appeared on ‘Later…With Jools Holland’ and could be rather more well known.

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