Band of Horses came up short on originality.
In its fourth studio album “Mirage Rock,” the Seattle band wears its influences on its sleeve, but too often comes up with pale imitations of classic rock staples.
Opening with “Knock Knock,” the album establishes a more-of-the-same vibe right out of the gate, putting singer and guitarist Ben Bridwell’s recognizable voice and lyrical phrasing front and center.
“How To Live” kicks in with an Allman Brothers-esque groove but settles for average country rock, dependant on lazy harmonies to keep things moving. There are dozens of bands making this kind of music right now, such as Tennessee-based band Glossary, which has frankly been doing it better for years.
Similar influences abound. “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” finds Bridwell attempting to channel the ghost of Gram Parsons, and it fails. The result is a sub-Eagles snoozer primed for skipping.
“A Little Biblical” recalls “Summerteeth”-era Wilco, complete with a nod to one of that album’s songs with lyrics, “Every once in awhile / every little thing / everything little thing.”
“Dumpster World” and “Heartbreak on the 101” rank among the weakest songs the band has ever written, the former an obvious homage to America’s “A Horse with No Name.”
“Feud” manages to inject some energy in the second half of the record. It sounds like the same guys who wrote “Islands on the Coast” and “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands,” but by the time Band of Horses gets around to kicking out the jams, it’s too little, too late.
The problem with Band of Horses is that its sophomore album “Cease to Begin,” released in 2007, was a near-perfect marriage of the roots rock revival and Northwest indie rock, a la Death Cab for Cutie, and its 2010 album, “Infinite Arms,” was nominated for a Grammy. “Mirage Rock’s” refusal to be more than average is all the more frustrating because we know the band is capable of so much more.