Band of Horses
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2011, Volume 18, #7
Written by John Metzger
Fri October 7, 2011, 05:30 AM CDT
Ever since it released its debut Everything All the Time in 2006, Band of Horses has been in a constant state of flux. Ben Bridwell has always served as the group’s de facto leader, and there is no doubt that his vision has been the driving force behind the outfit. Nevertheless, Bridwell typically has also left room for his supporting cast to help him shape his projects. He seems to feed off the inspiration that close collaborative friendships provide. In the wake of cofounder Mat Brooke’s departure, Bridwell fostered a relationship with up-and-coming songwriter Tyler Ramsey. Although Band of Horses barely resembles the outfit that emerged from the Seattle music scene in 2004, its growth and development have followed an evolutionary pattern that makes logical sense.
With its latest set Infinite Arms, Band of Horses has escaped from the sometimes stifling environment of the indie-music scene. In the process, the outfit has expanded its horizons significantly. As always, Band of Horses infuses its alt-country music with majestic choruses. Right from the start, however, with the symphonic grandeur of Factory, it is apparent that Infinite Arms is meant to expose the group to a larger audience. Some might argue that Band of Horses found its niche before it was ready, and its latest endeavor is its introduction to the world.
This might explain why some of the tricks and trappings that have been melded into the constructs of Infinite Arms were recycled from Band of Horses’ previous projects. Not only does the familiar nod to Neil Young’s work — both with Buffalo Springfield and on his own — surface regularly throughout Infinite Arms, but also Laredo is a close cousin to Bridwell’s own Weed Party. In short, Bridwell grabbed the things that worked well for him in the past and used them as the foundation for his latest song cycle. This, of course, is a normal part of a band’s development. However, in an age when some level of fame can be achieved outside the boundaries of corporate America, it is much harder for such a tactic to go unnoticed.
In many ways, Infinite Arms is the album that Band of Horses has been trying to make since its debut. By broadening its focus — and perfecting its approach — the outfit has brought everything into perspective. One can highlight the George Harrison-esque slide guitar that slices through For Annabelle or the harmonic convergence of The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills and Nash — younger fans would credit Fleet Foxes — that occurs within cuts like Older and Blue Beard. However, the ragged guitars, rattling power chords, and soaring melodies have more to do with Big Star’s oeuvre than they do with Neil Young’s.
As the driving, pop-inflected grooves of Compliments, Laredo, Dilly, and NW Apt. attest, Big Star established the blueprint that Bridwell followed as he led Band of Horses through the making of Infinite Arms. Released two months after the death of Alex Chilton and two months prior to the death of Andy Hummel, it unintentionally has become an astoundingly good tribute to a band that only recently has received the kind of attention it always deserved. With outings like Infinite Arms, Big Star’s spirit will remain alive in the hearts and minds of a younger generation of songwriters.
Of Further Interest...
Infinite Arms is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2011 The Music Box