Imag­ine Drag­ons Ori­gins

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noted for their work with avant-garde mav­er­icks in­clud­ing Sam Smith, Ch­eryl Tweedy, Selina Gomez and fear­some elec­tro-acous­tic au­teur El­lie Gould­ing. No­tice is thus served that talk of mu­sic of a thrilling new­ness might amount to gild­ing the lily a bit.

And so it proves. The song Dig­i­tal un­ex­pect­edly makes use of a drum’n’bass break­beat, but for the most part, Ori­gins’ con­tents ar­rive thickly spread with chart cliches: re­verb-heavy xx-in­spired gui­tars, the kind of high-pitched vo­cal echoes found on Justin Bieber’s Sorry, a bit of thumpy Mum­ford-ish folk on West Coast, a track that deals in taut 80s-movie-sound­track pop-rock. The songs are well-crafted, but the band’s work fre­quently sounds weirdly in­ter­change­able with other artists who oc­cupy the Top 40. You can imag­ine Cool Out be­ing per­formed by DNCE or Ma­roon 5, or Stuck be­ing given a gruff-voiced makeover by Ge­orge Ezra.

What in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter it has comes from an oc­ca­sional de­sire to graft on well-worn sta­dium rock tropes: the pained in­ten­sity of Reynolds’ vo­cals, the rhythm of Ma­chine that mim­ics the thumpthump-crash of Queen’s We Will Rock You, the yearn­ing, U2-ish break­down that ap­pears mid­way through Zero. The lyrics deal in windy gen­er­al­i­ties – “Why can’t you just be my brother? Why do we have to kill one an­other?” – or stuff that fan­cies it­self as pro­found but doesn’t make any sense: “I want a new world with­out the or­der / I want to res­ur­rect and live a lit­tle shorter.”

Oc­ca­sion­ally, the lyrics delve into what Bul­let in a Gun – a meld­ing of elec­tronic rhythm track and Kings of Leon im­per­son­ation – refers to as “the Devil’s deal” of fame, a cu­ri­ous topic for a band who ap­pear to have as­cended to the up­per ech­e­lons of com­mer­cial suc­cess with the min­i­mum of angst. “To make a name, you pay the price,” cries Reynolds, sound­ing pos­i­tively wracked. “How many artists fear the light? Feel the pain?” He then starts shout­ing “SELL OUT! SELL OUT!”, some­thing that is hard to lis­ten to with­out think­ing: keep your hair on, mate, you weren’t ex­actly Na­palm Death to start off with.

Per­haps it all hints at a gulf be­tween how Imag­ine Drag­ons see them­selves (fear­less sonic ex­plor­ers and so­ciopo­lit­i­cal philoso­phers strain­ing at the very con­fines of com­mer­cial­ity) and what they are: a band who’ve hit on a win­ning for­mula, where main­stream pop mu­sic is larded with just enough ref­er­ences to clas­sic rock to lure in not just lovers of the Top 40, but the kind of peo­ple who nor­mally sniff at main­stream pop. If they re­ally are trou­bled by their suc­cess or how they’re per­ceived, their dark night of the soul looks set to con­tinue apace: cliches, cod pro­fun­di­ties and all, Ori­gins sounds like an­other vast hit.

The lyrics deal in windy gen­er­al­i­ties such as: ‘Do we have to kill one an­other?’

Pop cliches and cod pro­fun­di­ties … Imag­ine Drag­ons

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