Album Review: Imagine Dragons – ‘Smoke + Mirrors’
Never mind “On Top Of The World”, Imagine Dragons are about to take over the world. They have conquered the hearts of millions with their last album “Night Visions”. It sold over two million copies in America and it’s been certified platinum and gold in other countries. Their latest offering “Smoke + Mirrors” looks set to propel them even further.
It’s a sizeable collection of heart pumping, chest pounding, intense and intelligent songs. Stand out rousing pounding anthem “I Bet My Life ” is fast, furious, almost folky. Layered with heartfelt cries and earnest wishes. It’s riddled with symptoms of a festering, burning, creative soul. Sounds sad but it ain’t. It’s homage to Reynolds parents as he decries his behaviour, their disappointment as he seeks their forgiveness. “Now remember when I told you that’s the last you’ll see of me/Remember when I broke you down to tears/I know I took the path that you would never want for me/I gave you hell through all the years”. After hearing this little stomper I feel like I’ve had a date with a defibrillator.
There’s more apologies in the opening track, “Shots”. “I’m sorry for everything/Oh everything I’ve done”. Regret wrapped in Reynolds impressive falsetto rising to meet the massive drummed up midpoint. “And then I shot, shot, shot a hole through/Everything I loved”. A musical tide that lifts all in its wake. Arguably the biggest anthem on the album.
The shimmering “Gold”, written whilst the band were on the “Night Visions” tour, illustrates the failing of success, hinting at seeds of self doubt. “First comes the blessing of all that you’ve dreamed/But then comes the curses of diamonds and rings/…/Who can you trust”. Kinda haters gonna hate kinda thing, but with a thumping, tribal undertone and a haunting whistled hook winding its way around the haters’ inclinations.
The title track emits a dreamy softness as Reynolds questions the deceit, illusions and exaggeration of the industry. His flawless vocal rising like spiralling smoke around the complex falsehood of it all. “I’m So Sorry” getting a bit grungier, a bit heavier on the riffs, thudding through the crowd calling to “fire up”, destined for a UFC advert no doubt.
“Polaroid” returns to more familiar ID territory. A slow opener of clever self depreciation. “I’m a first class let down/I’m a shut up sit down/I am a head case”. Charming chimes and a reverb bass drum create a combination of isolation with hint of hope. Another issue driven musical diamond from Dan and the boys from Berklee.
Other gems from the standard album include “The Fall” and “Hopeless Opus” and “Thief”. “Warriors” is only available on the deluxe version. Well worth the extra investment, “Warriors” is an epic finale. A huge battle cry to humankind. Dark and dramatic, of Jerry Bruckheimer proportions. It’s a soundtrack to a soundtrack. “Farewell, I’ve gone, to take my throne/…/We are the warriors that built this town/From Dust/”. A fitting close to the album.
Throughout all of Reynolds writing, there is a moral battle. The battle of good over bad, fake over real, hope over darkness, the sinner over the sins. Reynolds strong Mormon upbringing provides this carousel of self contempt. He trades on his vulnerabilities. His honesty about his journey of depression, eventually leading him to write “On Top Of The World”. It’s that self doubt seeping from a man with magnificent stage presence that creates intense connection with fans. It’s all our self doubt, all our nightmares, all our hopes. We are all headcases singing “Radioactive” together. That’s what music does. Brings headcases together. Interesting to note that Imagine Dragons is a secret anagram of the real name of the band, known only to the the guys and a secret few. A nod to the Irish with David Hopkins, formerly of much adored Irish group “LiR”. He wrote a song called “Jackson” which Dan cites as having an early and lasting influence on him.
Review by Ciara Sheahan