New producer + new swagger = Seattle's finest on the up
Choosing the right producer can make or break a record. Take The Cribs’ scrapped sessions with David Richards for ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’, or Foals remixing ‘Antidotes’ because Dave Sitek “made it sound like it was recorded in the Grand Canyon”. Both LPs were brilliant, but took a while to get there. The ‘best’ producers, see, aren’t always the right ones.
But when you make the right decision, magic can happen. Such is the case with ‘Mirage Rock’. Choosing Glyn Johns (a man who has previously twiddled knobs for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin) could potentially have been a terrible idea, born from a need to say, “Yes Glyn, hop on board, you legend you” – because how could you say no? Turns out bringing his old-school rock’n’roll expertise into the southern-fried fold makes for a perfect match.
Enveloped in harmonies and My Morning Jacket-isms, BOH have always been a niche proposition – capable of drawing devoted crowds, but a little too hicksville to fully pull the masses. On ‘Mirage Rock’, however, Ben Bridwell and co have been jump-started with a new swagger. The title track – at once dreamy but, y’know, rocking – encapsulates it perfectly. ‘Knock’ opens at full pelt, Bridwell’s warm tones gaining clout alongside rollicking guitars and one of the band’s most fully upbeat tracks to date. The pop-ridden ‘A Little Biblical’, meanwhile, is like a countryfied Beach Boys, while the sun-drenched ‘Electric Music’ makes for a modern take on the Eagles’ ‘Take It Easy’.
There are still enough highlights within its more classic Band Of Horses moments (the ridiculously Neil Young-y ‘Dumpster World’, or ‘Slow Cruel Hands Of Time’ and its plaintive, perfect vocals) to ensure there’s no risk of the band doing a Kings Of Leon. But ‘Mirage Rock’ could and should be the LP that at least bumps them a good few places higher up next year’s festival bills.