Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
I don’t know what I expected from this album, be it more of the same, a bit of a detour, softer, harder or angrier. It has managed to not quite be it, though. In fact I would go so far as to say that I am finding it very difficult to get any kind of handle on this album at all.
It’s very characteristic, that’s for sure, and doesn’t really stray that far from their well-established template. Few bands do, of course, from one album to the next, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this is more a gentle evolution that sudden swerve. There was a mononous thump to early Horses stuff, however, which carried a kind of menace and is now almost entirely absent. They had a sort of glittery, shimmery surface with a sense of deep-running foreboding, but that inner malaise seems to have seeped away from their music a little and it is the poorer for it.
In general though I am enjoying this album. There are definitely a few soft-round-the-edges moments which I personally find a little lacking in bite, but there is also some cracking stuff here. The hypnotic, Midlake meets early Interpol guitars are largely gone, though, and the overall vibe is a lot more relaxed, as if that frantic urge to make themselves heard had calmed down and they are a little more at ease with the world these days.
That doesn’t always make for the best music though – I mean, you could very easily and not unreasonably just dismiss it as ‘losing your edge’ – but I wouldn’t really level that accusation at this record. Until Dilly. I really, really do not like that song at all. It’s part of a really downbeat triptych in the middle of the album which would be lovely, but for the really nasty FM pop-lite vibe of that song, which infects everything around it with the impression of squishy suburbia. It distracts from the excellent title track and the lovely Evening Kitchen, and generally just seems to charicature the overall changes in atmosphere which seem to bog down Infinite Arms.
It’s an odd thing to get fixated upon, and I am probably being an idiot, but I am not convinced by this record, despite the fact that some of the songs are really good individually, and I find myself blaming the likes of Dilly and Blue Beard and Compliments and their sort, which just seem to highlight some of the things I wish the band hadn’t lost since their early records. Because I suppose the ultimate question for me is whether or not, having bought their previous two albums, I honestly feel that I would rush out and buy this, and I am not sure that the answer is yes. Factory and Laredo are ace, but I don’t think there is much of this that I would call compelling. If these guys were an unknown band would this record be enough to get their name out there to a wider audience? Well, maybe, but I do not think so.