That thing, ‘indie rock’, is so well played and produced these days, so pristine and flawless, that it has become almost the antithesis of what it was back at the end of the 1970s, when the term was invented. Then it referred to bands who released stuff on small independent labels because the big labels wouldn’t take them on. Shouty, angsty and angular, or just weird and beloved by the befringed dolorous yoof, in their anoraks or donkey jackets, the whole thing had a pleasing DIY feel to it, even if it sometimes grated. These days ‘indie’ just tends to mean anodyne power pop played by whining blokes who haven’t had a shag for ages.
So it is, I think, for Seattle’s Band of Horses. I don’t actually hate their jangly-guitar post-Postcard schtick. And there are one or two cute moments on this album – which comes 14 years into their career (indie bands shouldn’t last that long). The largely two chord ‘Aftermath’ is sweet enough and on ‘Lights’ they almost – but not quite – ‘rock out’. But most of the time they are Orange Juice or Josef K without the frenzy, the chutzpah, the irony, the gentle cacophony or, crucially, the songs.
Melodically, leader Ben Bridwell is a bit of a one-trick pony: there are hooks on this album, but they tend to be the same hooks, repeated. And his plaintive vocals suggest a man who, on his prom date, has just caught his testicles in the zipper of his jeans. That can be becoming when you’re 18, but Ben is now 43 years old. If you’re still indie at that age, you should maybe move into selling insurance or something.
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