I really hate when a band gets too big for its britches.
I realize that music is an industry, and like all other business endeavors, it's all about making money. Music is different, however, because it is so dependent upon an intensely personal visceral connection to the artist. Entirely too frequently, once mainstream listeners take possession of a band, the pressure is on to produce music that delivers Everything All the Time, to EVERYONE all the time. In my opinion, it nearly always homogenizes the outstanding elements that originally attracted the bands core group of fans to a point where their sound becomes, at best, boring, and at worst, nearly unrecognizable.
Which leads me to the too-big-for-its-britches tirade youre about to read: Band of Horses has recently switched from an indie label, Sub Pop, to mega-conglomerate Columbia Records, and the changes are evident in every move they are making. Their new album, Infinite Arms, is due for release May 18; and they have recently begun a summer tour in support (including a slew of dates opening for Pearl Jam). Their performance at the House of Blues, Orlando, on Thursday, April 29, was about three weeks into this new tour. Even the choice of venue, a glorified amusement park attraction with bathroom attendants and cocktail waitresses, offers evidence of their new status as a major label recording artists. [Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell pictured right, photo from the Meredith Festival in Australia courtesy of the band's Myspace.]
The band is calling Infinite Arms their first collaborative release, with all current touring members of the band providing input on songwriting, and in some cases, lead vocals. However, for a group effort, I find this record has none of the simple charm of guitarist Tyler Ramseys solo releases, or even the sense of melancholy that lead vocalist/guitarist Bridwells earlier band, Carissas Weird, delivers. It certainly has very little of the electric, explosive, heart-wrenching alt-country that made fans fall in love with Band of Horses to begin with. True, there are some outstanding moments — Compliments and Northwest Apartment are instantly catchy, and Bartles + James picks up unexpectedly into loveliness at its conclusion. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the album is bland and forgettable, at least in comparison to what Band of Horses gave us on Everything All the Time and Cease to Begin.