In 1954, Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, introducing rock 'n roll to the world. These early years bred "originality" simply from the music genre's infancy. Now, fifty odd years later, bands claiming "originality" often make music which can only loosely be described as rock 'n roll. Fiery Furnaces owe their sound more to 1930s vaudeville than the Velvet Underground. The Dresden Dolls have more in common with Bertolt Brect and Berlin cabaret than the vanilla wrap rock of Billy Joel’s Piano Man. Within the traditional bounds of rock 'n roll, "originality" is a rare commodity these days because chances are it's been done before... many times before.
Band of Horses' Everything All The Time is ten differently styled songs by a single band sound. And it works. The melodies on EATT are absolutely superb. A mix of loud, mid-tempo indie pop including banjos, steel pedal and fancy drum work, together with slow, sad songs using sparse instrumentation doesn’t look too appetizing on paper. Despite the variety of influences which went into the making of this album, Band of Horses have a characteristic sound which can occasionally become samey and slightly dull, yet for the most part it gives the album a comforting continuity. The stylistic varieties here are a risky proposition and if it weren't for the talents which make up the group, they might easily find themselves playing Police covers on the Love Boat for a group of intoxicated middle-aged Rotary Club members.
For bands that rely on their influences above originality, the most important aspect of the equation is that the sum is greater than the combination of its parts. Fortunately, Band of Horses is just such a band. Ten minutes into Everything All The Time and the comparisons come faster than a Derby thoroughbred at Santa Anita. This album's various reviews will likely garner comparisons to My Morning Jacket, Wilco, REM and a plethora of bands in-between, but Band of Horses’ EATT is far more than another band’s regurgitation, however. There's enough character stamp on the songwriting and production to avoid "tribute band" criticisms.
'First Song' is a lush, dreamy affair which isn’t quite Slowdive but perhaps a first cousin. Ben Bridwell’s gazing vocals are stretched thin in areas, but for the on the whole, do a good job of balancing the album and provide a common thread amongst the ten tracks, without the varying styles unraveling. Proceeding track, 'Wicked Gil', picks up the pace, a pleasant indie foot-stomper that could elicit comparisons with Spoon or other on that quintessential indie vibe. 'Our Swords' is the overture to 'The Funeral''s symphony. Indeed, 'The Funeral" is well served as the album's centerpiece anthem and at this point we know we’re definitely onto something special.
"Every occasion I’m ready for a funeral," is the sort of 'happy when it rains’ lyric which permeates throughout EATT. Mid-way through the album and already you’ll be anxious to get through the second half in order to hit the re-play button.
In a perfect world, 'The Great Salt Lake' could fit the 'killer single' bill, but Trail of Dead’s 'Relative Ways' should have been a hit single, too; however, outside of college radio stations, received about zero airplay. Without a major label kickback it is highly unlikely any mainstream radio programmers will pick up Band of Horses’ efforts either. If only Ben Bridwell wore lipstick as well as Brandon Flowers...
Readers of Drowned in Sound share a common indie bond, yet rarely can agree on a band with unanimous favor. Band of Horses will likely earn this distinction. Perhaps a lack of originality will keep the purists from unabashed devotion, but I fail to envision too many from not giving this LP the thumbs up. There are an overwhelming number of positive forces behind this album relative to its negatives. Indeed, many DiS readers, I suspect, will have a new favorite record. That is, at least until the new Radiohead comes out.
8Bruce Porter's Score