Monday, 10 January 2011

Band Of Horses

At the end of last year I bought the album Infinite Arms. And so began my current obsession with Band Of Horses. In recent weeks I have bought the band’s first two albums: Everything All The Time and Cease To Begin – thanks to HMV, the best ten pounds I have spent. The three records are an impressive trilogy that by rights should not exist. Band Of Horses has more ex-members than the current quintet but original founder and vocalist Ben Bridwell has remained at the helm ensuring the band’s consistent sound. In 2007 he moved from Seattle back to his native South Carolina to make the second album Cease To Begin with new addition Tyler Ramsey as part of a six-piece line-up. This makes the album Band Of Horses’ most commercially successful – this and the successful singles Is There A Ghost and the wonderful No One’s Gonna Love You; both enjoyed regular airplay on UK radio in spite of the band’s lack of success.

Fans regard the band’s debut as their finest moment and this is hard to contest. Not only do you get the singles The Funeral and The Great Salt Lake but Monsters is one of the best songs the band has delivered. Likewise The First Song is exquisite song writing and with swirling guitars combined with Bridwell’s distinctive vocals rivals Mercury Rev at their most majestic. Weed Party shows the band’s ability to kick it up a notch and have some fun while St. Augustine is a delicate heart-wrenching ballad (“I know you tried, I know you’re cursed; I know your best was still your worst” – one of the finest lyrics ever written).

Cease To Begin continues the band’s great form. Not as consistent as the debut, the fine singles are set apart with the sublime Window Blues and supreme instrumentation on Detlef Schrempf coupled with the beguiling Ode To LRC and the stomping The General Specific propping up a fine collection of songs. It is clear to hear the fuller sound of the new line-up with more variation, greater freedom and thicker production. All good.

Which brings us to Infinite Arms – the album that started it all for me. I have no shame in admitting that I missed Band Of Horses the first time around and even though I heard a lot of Cease To Begin back in 2007, I chose other bands and other albums ahead of it. Factory is a great song and much neglected as a single. That said, Laredo is a more appropriate pop song. Neighbor is another masterpiece as is the mighty Compliments. And the album is home to the band’s finest example of a love song: For Annabelle is an instant tearjerker.

When a band is as great as Band Of Horses, it is a pleasure to listen to music and write about it. I’m now looking forward to the next album and seeing the band live.

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