I must admit I am a tad bit saddened. A few years ago two bands emerged with a vibrant updated sound that was deeply rooted in the cool Laurel Canyon of the late 1970’s. They had thoughtful lyrics and modern sensibilities, which made them seem like two bands on the rise. They both were on nice progressions toward becoming perhaps the next U2 and R.E.M. for a new generation. So it was with such high praise and grand anticipation that I looked forward to a combination of new album releases this month and sadly to say, I am most disappointed with both of them. I remain hopeful that it is an aberration of each bands’ mutual development and they will both rebound.
I speak of Dawes and Band Of Horses. Both bands released their fifth studio album this year and after such stellar fourth records that showed two bands at an upward spira,l its rather ironic that both of them fell so flat with their latest long playing discs (at least thats what they used to call them). Dawes’ record, “We Are All Going To Die,” is perhaps the most unfortunate for its overall breath should have been inspired by an excellent group of guests musicians. The Band Of Horses’ effort “Why Are You Ok,” is well just that, OK.
Dawes’ record should have been epic. Taylor Goldsmith, the band’s singer guitarist and primary songwriter, has been a rising star in the rock world particularly after his inspired performance on “The New Basement Tapes.” He pulled out some of his chits to garner the likes of Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes) to make cameos on his record but their presence is wasted in lackluster songs with mind numbing, read amateurish, lyrics.
Take the single “When The Tequila Runs Out.” This could have been a fine update to Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come.” But in languishes in simplicity, “Then I heard her tired voice speak up and say I think this party’s done/She asked if I could drive her home, and then she added please.” The chorus is even worse, “When the tequila runs out/ (Wait for it) we’ll be drinking champagne.” deep. It’s a shame since they handled conversational lyrics so well with their previous release, particularly on the title track “All Your Favorite Bands.”
The Band of Horses on the other hand have a record that is significantly stronger and more endearing than Dawes, but it lacks any significant breakthrough for the Seattle band in spite of its Roxy Music inspired cover. This is after two great records Mirage Rock and Infinite Arms. The latter of which received a much deserved Grammy nomination while the former Mirage Rock gave us “Dumpster World,” the song Crosby Stills Nash and Young have been trying to write for the past 20 years. That’s why this record fails to get me pumped up. It’s certainly serviceable and song for song better than a vast majority of recent releases; however, they are capable of so much more and that’s what hurts.
In truth, all great bands have off records and rebound with sensational releases and careers. I maintain my faith in both of these bands, though they both managed to miss a beat together. There are good songs and great musicianship, but if you are just coming to discover these bands I suggest you start with their past.