“Smoke + Mirrors” caught in the smog of mediocrity

Courtesy of Interscope Records
Courtesy of Interscope Records

After phenomenal success with their hit album “Night Visions,” Imagine Dragons is back with their latest album, “Smoke + Mirrors.” This album is good news for fans of their previous work, who will recognize frontman Dan Reynolds shouting at the top of his lungs, a mix of pop and rock elements and of course, an ever-prominent drum line. Imagine Dragons seem to have found their niche and don’t plan to stray from that. When they do, their songs are heavily influenced by other currently popular contemporary bands such as Coldplay, The Killers and Arcade Fire. What we get is a mix of mostly forgettable tracks and an album that fails to have an identity, but does produce some very catchy songs.

“Shots” is the first track and probably the best one in the album. It’s able to mix both electronic and rock elements and blend them seamlessly. It’s also one of the few songs that has a noticeable guitar riff. It’s uptempo, feels like a song you’d listen to during a road trip during the summer, and different from normal Imagine Dragons. However, that’s short-lived as it jumps straight into some heavy percussion that leads us to “Gold,” which is a typical Imagine Dragons song. This highlights one of the main problems of this album — it doesn’t flow at all, and you’d get the same results if you put the album on shuffle.

We do get a slow moment with “Smoke + Mirrors,” which is a very good track, but sounds like it belongs in a Coldplay album rather than this one. “I’m So Sorry” borrows influence from the Black Keys with the same blues feel and even the same guitar distortions. “I Bet My Life” has been on the airwaves for months and feels like a collaboration with Mumford and Sons, Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men, complete with stomping and clapping.

This album is a rollercoaster of tempo because things slow down again for “It Comes Back To You” and we even get a bit of piano in “Dream.” “Polaroid” is also slower, but there’s nothing that makes this a unique track even if it does showcase Reynolds’ voice really well. “Friction” does the opposite, as Reynolds sounds strained for the most part, backed by a really bad Bollywood-sounding background.

“Summer” is a mostly instrumental track and this one is also one of the best tracks of the album. We get a simple guitar-driven track, but it’s refreshing to get a song that’s almost completely devoid of heavy reliance on electronic elements. “Hopeless Opus” is very ambient and leads into “The Fall,” the last track of this album. It’s very forgetful and a drags on for six minutes, relying on atmosphere that it doesn’t have. The song could’ve been edited down a lot, or even cut out entirely.

In the end, Imagine Dragons played it safe and got some good hits, but most of it feels like background music. There are definitely some tracks that should be checked out, but the rest can just be forgotten.

Rating: 3 stars

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