This stuff, “indie rock,” is so well played and produced these days, so pure and unblemished, that it’s become almost the antithesis of what it was in the late 1970s, when the term has been invented. Then he was referring to bands releasing stuff on small independent labels because the big labels wouldn’t accept them. Screaming, angsty and edgy, or just weird and loved by sore fringed yoofs, in their anoraks or donkey jackets, it all had a nice DIY feel to it, if grated at times. These days, “indie” tends to mean innocuous power pop played by whiny dudes who haven’t had sex in ages.
The same goes, I think, for Seattle’s Band of Horses. I don’t really hate their jangly guitar post-postcard schtick. And there are one or two cute moments on this album – which arrives 14 years after the start of their career (indie bands shouldn’t last that long). ‘Aftermath’, largely made up of two chords, is quite soft and on ‘Lights’ they almost – but not quite – ‘rock out’. But most of the time it’s Orange Juice or Josef K without the frenzy, the sass, the irony, the sweet cacophony or, above all, the songs.
Melodically, frontman Ben Bridwell is a bit of a one-trick pony: there are hooks on this album, but they’re usually the same hooks, repeated. And his plaintive voice suggests a man who, at his prom date, has just had his testicles caught in the zipper of his jeans. It may become the case at 18, but Ben is now 43. If you’re still independent at that age, maybe you should switch to selling insurance or something like that.