Band of Horses | Infinite Arms
Most Likely To: choose breadth over depth.
Infinite Arms is Band of Horses‘ third record since Everything All the Time, their debut, made a huge splash in the tiny quarry whose walls had been carved from the blogosphere’s skyrocketing praise. Perhaps we make those waters deep because soon enough we will come to drown the bands we touted, not to praise them. Cease to Begin, Band of Horses’ sophomore effort, lacked a standout track like Everything All the Time’s “The Funeral,” yet the band’s fame continued to grow steadily. Now, as Band of Horses makes that great leap forward from Sub Pop to Columbia, it remains to be seen how they will survive in the majors.
Infinite Arms has had its rough edges washed away. The songs glide across the top of the water like a pond skater, whereas previous efforts broke the surface tension. For example, compare Infinite Arms’ “Older” to Everything All the Time’s “Monster.” While “Monster” is full of familiar notes cleverly jammed into places new places, “Older” shares the same melancholia yet follows an alt-country chord progression so familiar that I was practically humming along on the first listen.
“Blue Beard” approaches 1970s easy listening – the kind that might show up on a collection of the decade’s most romantic music, available only on television. That’s less of a dig than I intend it to be. After all, there’s a reason Tony Orlando is still hawking those songs on the late night telly: people love them. And I predict people who don’t even know or care about Sub Pop or indie cred will embrace this surface skimming incarnation Band of Horses. (It could be far worse. I know a guy who just discovered Silversun Pickups. Shudder.)
Despite the loss of musical depth, Band of Horses is never without Bridwell’s vocals, and every note he sings stamps his songs with an indelible signature. His voice alone can’t save Infinite Arms, but it is enough to situate them as one of the more credible acts aiming for mainstream success. It’s Bridwell’s voice and his voice alone that keep Infinite Arms from sounding like outtakes from Desperado, although I may never forgive him for the lyric, “Now if Bartles & Jaymes didn’t need no first names / We could live by our own laws in favor.” Really? Real front men don’t write rock songs about wine coolers, Ben.
But I am just one voice. Band of Horses now has more than 21,000 Twitter followers, and not more than one or two percent are hanging on just to sarcastically retweet the band’s messages. I’ve got no doubt that Bridwell is happy with what he has accomplished on Infinite Arms. Right now, Band of Horses is on tour opening for Pearl Jam, playing stadiums, and loads of people will be hearing “The Funeral” for the first time that very night. I almost envy them. If you imagine discovering Band of Horses through Infinite Arms, the record probably sounds much better.
Watch the video for “Compliments” from Band of Horses: