Rock 'n' roll band's formula: consistency, not invention

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No matter who is concerned that there is no more opulence left in the need for rock'n'roll only to throw a glance with the Imagine dragons, by some measurements the most popular rock group in the United States.

During Grammys this month, this band carried out their new simple, shootings, live during an advertizing break of four-minute for the target. According to the billboard, cost US$8 million (S$10.9 million) time of announcement only.

It is US$8 million spent in marketing a band, in an environment where the labels of commander are also timid than ever, budgetwise. And it is US$8 million spent on the idea that the rock'n'roll could be viable means of communication of action on the masses, an idea which left the mode one day or the other during the years Clinton.

So Imagine Dragons are a unicorn, an unlikely survivor of the Darwinian hunger game that happily culls the weak and irrelevant.

And yet what this band - singer Dan Reynolds, Wayne Sermon on guitar, Ben McKee on bass and Daniel Platzman on drums - accomplish on their second album, Smoke + Mirrors (KIDinaKORNER/Interscope), is no different from what they did on their debut, and no different from what any number of other mainstream rock bands have been attempting for the past 10 years.

They are, perhaps, the least interested in difference and maybe that's why they have survived.

Imagine Dragons are preoccupied with a few elementary sonic ideas - deeply forthright guitar rhythms and melodies, jagged juxtapositions between loud and soft, gestures in which one instrument rises to the top and quickly commands attention. There are almost no rough edges to their sounds - all of their moves have been polished smooth by their predecessors over decades.

The band recently detailed the process of making this album to Billboard, describing it as six months of nine-to-five sessions. Theoretically, it is possible to innovate within constraints like that, but, undoubtedly, the bulk of this album sounds like office-cubicle drudgery, the work of recombining old parts to sell under the banner of something new.

That trickles down to the lyrics too, which are damningly vague, except for perhaps the strain of fame anxiety on Gold: "Who can you trust, who can you trust/when everything, everything, everything you touch turns to gold, gold, gold?"

In the main, the lyrics traffic in cheap metaphors, like in Polaroid: "Love is a Polaroid/better in picture/but never can fill the void."

Clearly, not all the metaphors make sense.

Vocally, Reynolds often sounds as if he's doing Chris Martin karaoke - Coldplay are never far from this band's mind. The way he lightens his voice, and the way it is subsequently processed, leaves the impression that he'd rather not leave much of an impression. He has nominal range and sounds alert only when he's shouting, which he often does, if only to drown out the brutalising guitars by Sermon and the aggressive drumming by Platzman.

The drums, although, they became the true phone card of this band, sight more with glare in the representation of Grammy of last year with the striker Kendrick Lamar, where Reynolds struck a unit pitilessly, just as almost all the others on scene, almost a parody of a circle of drum.

But when Platzman is left to his own devices, he can create real energy, the way he does on Friction, by far the best song on this album. It also features Reynolds sounding nervous and frenzied - it's his least comfortable singing and also his most triumphant.

But apart from that song, and I'm So Sorry - which has slashing rhythmic guitar and Reynolds singing staccato for an effect not unlike the Red Hot Chili Peppers - the music here is little more than a set of compromises, completely bereft of formal innovations.

That said, it's unfair to say that Imagine Dragons are wholly without pleasure because their sound primarily activates pleasure terrain that's old and familiar. It can be pleasing in the way Nickelback or Creed once were - so close to pop that it is almost indistinguishable from it. For good measure, there is Trouble, a blatant Mumford & Sons rip-off, and on Gold, a whistle straight from 2011.

Which brings everything back to that US$8 million - that's a lot of money to spend on photocopies. It's not excess for the sake of aesthetics. And it's not excess for the sake of bad behaviour. And it's not excess for the sake of experimentation.

But like most big piles of money, that US$8 million is basically a bully. It's excess for the sake of making this band - blank as a clean sheet of paper - too big to fail.


 
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