Band of Horses' first two albums found the perfect balance between Neil Young/Crazy Horse stoner rock and some of the more spastic guitar heroics of indie stalwarts Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill.
So now it's time for Album #3, and Ben Bridwell and company travel back in time to a slightly earlier era, the era of ... America, Bread, and Seals and Crofts. Oh my. Baby, I'm-a want you to go away. All over again.
Infinite Arms is certainly a pleasant-sounding album, all gentle coos and gently strummed guitars, but the new focus on pop hooks, slick, all-the-edges-smoothed-over production, and Laurel Canyon harmonies doesn't exactly bode well for impatient hipsters looking for ways to distance themselves from dad rock. One effect of turning the guitars way down is that one can now hear Ben Bridwell's lyrics quite clearly. Sadly, this means that some of the most dire hippie sentiments since the last Neil Young album are now trumpeted forth in disturbing clarity. "I want to take a dip in the lake," Ben sings on the country-fried "Laredo." "I'm at a crossroads with myself/I don't got no one else." It melts your heart. Lead single "Blue Beard" sounds alarmingly like The Starland Vocal Band, purveyors of harmonies so treacly sweet that they actually managed to put "the thought of rubbin' you is getting so exciting" across on AM radio in a very different, much more conservative era. And while Bridwell remains an impressive singer, stacking his multi-tracked harmonies higher and higher, these songs remain glittering, sugary monuments to Air. Or Bread. Or America. A horse with no name, anyone? Another album like this, and Bridwell and company are there.