The resurgence of indie pop in recent years (think Foster the People, Bastille) has Imagine Dragons high on its list of bands to thank. The commercial success of their 2012 debut, Night Visions, is undeniable, and plenty of time has lapsed since then waiting for its follow up.
When ‘I Bet My Life’ dropped late last year the outlook was promising, but other songs teased up until now – ‘Shots’ and ‘Gold’’ – fell short of expectation. The former is almost twee, its impassioned message gets lost in the bubbly synth-y bursts. The latter, meanwhile, is an unsuccessful attempt to reproduce the volatility of first album favourite ‘Radioactive’.
But, the peak of Smoke + Mirrors comes in the form of a heartfelt trio featured on the latter half of the album. Whilst the first half expends its energy straining to be heard, ‘It Comes Back to You’, ‘Dream’, and ‘Trouble’ command attention more naturally. They have a flair that is lacking elsewhere on the record, and capture the honesty of Night Visions that made that debut so successful. These three songs are not overwrought, the sentiments are more convincing.
The album is unable to settle on a sound, instead it chooses to dart across genre barriers with no sense of purpose. Although it seems wrong to suggest that experimentation can be undesirable, the songs are thrown together awkwardly and such the album resists a feeling of completeness. It is because of this that it needs a persistent listener, one who is willing to forgive its flaws and capitalise on its main strength – the lyrics tell stories untold up to now, and frontman Dan Reynolds’s talent for vocal versatility injects meaning where others may fail to do so.
Despite the band’s best efforts, much of the album is destined for obscurity. Many songs try to resist anonymity, but so much so that they lack originality and definition. Imagine Dragons haven’t broken any new ground, but that said there are (some) inspired moments. Smoke + Mirrors might not win them new fans, but it will endear those that have already pledged their loyalty.