Championed as one of the biggest bands on the planet, Imagine Dragons’ fourth record is a disappointingly drab offering, highlighting a ba
Championed as one of the biggest bands on the planet, Imagine Dragons’ fourth record is a disappointingly drab offering, highlighting a band who have reached their plateau.
Having released three critically-acclaimed studio albums since 2012, the Las Vegas arena-rock quartet Imagine Dragons surprised everyone with the announcement of fourth album, Origins. In contrast to their previous album, Evolve, Origins is an uninspiring body of work, with the band seemingly happy to churn out generic pop-rock crossover tracks.
Lead single and opening track ‘Natural’ is one of very few positives to take away from Origins. With solemn backing vocals building tension from the very beginning, ‘Natural’ seems to be an immediate statement of the band’s return to the aggressive vocal style of ‘Radioactive’. Over the past few album’s, the American rock band have been criticised for delving too far into chart-pop territory. Detailing the need to be ruthless as time passes, Reynolds’ lyrics try to inspire the masses to stand up and fight for themselves.
As an opening track, ‘Natural’ is a great album opener, but is severely let down by what follows. Whilst the slightly electronic production of ‘Boomerang’ balances intricate percussion rhythms with a smoother, reflective lyrical tone from Reynolds, it lacks substance and bite, feeling like an album filler at just the second track on the LP. ‘Cool Out’ is similarly well-balanced in production, moving between blissful synths, delightful percussion grooves and subtle piano breakdowns. The diversity in Daniel Platzen’s drums offers potential for expansion moving forward but overall, it’s not the most inspiring of tracks.
The stalking introduction in ‘Machine’ promises a great deal but is swiftly massacred with a vocal section in which Dan Reynolds seems caught in two minds. The influential track ‘Mormon’ has achieved a lot over the past few years, celebrating and promoting a wide range of LGBT+ causes amongst many others, but during ‘Machine’ Reynolds doesn’t seem to know whether to opt for calming vocals or just launch into sharp, punishing screams creating an intensely uncomfortable chorus. ‘Bad Liar’ contains moments of poignancy and its self-reflecting message can be applauded, but its place on Origins feels only justified as the albums token lighter-waving moment for when the band go out on tour.
Not all hope is lost for the album though. The country-twang present in the introduction of West Coast rouses some spirits with the prospect of something different being offered by the group. Very much similar to the late Avicii’s ‘Hey Brother’, ‘West Coast’ is rooted in country music, developing into a Lumineers-esque singe with a pleasing rolling beat within its chorus. For a second ‘Digital’ feels more like a single from rave legends The Prodigy, than Imagine Dragons, but nevertheless it’s a welcome change in which lyrics “We are the face of the digital future / We are the digital heartbreak” indicate the transformation of generations, whilst lines “We don’t want to change / We just want to change everything” pushes awareness on societal indecisiveness.
Moving on, ‘Bullet In A Gun' contains a mystifying opening sequence, in which swirling off-beat synths intertwine with Platzen’s unorthodox percussion rhythms. It’s an enchanting track with ensnaring vocals from Reynolds that twist and turns in between well-arranged instrumentation. The issue with listening to this track is that you can’t help but feel frustrated. ‘Bullet In A Gun’ highlights the band’s ability to produce something inspiring to listen to, but for the majority of the record they opt instead for the creative lull of commercial pop. A key example is the cringe-worthy ‘Zero’ - a happy-go-lucky track full of hand-clapping percussion. Whilst the song’s instrumental breakdown is refreshing, the verses and choruses seemingly amalgamate into one single chunk of fast-paced indie-pop.
As with most albums which try and opt for commercial success instead of artistic integrity, Origins rapidly declines towards its end, with ‘Only’, ‘Stuck’ and ‘Love’ all proving to be three subtly different hues of dullness, offering nothing of any actual substance.
Origins, as a whole, is a gruelling listen. The album very much sounds like the product of a band struggling to churn out pop-rock singles that gained them so much success over the past five years. With a title like Origins, there’s an ironic lack of originality from the band, especially in the first half of the record. ‘Cool Out’, ‘Machine’ and ‘Bad Liar’ can be applauded for their production, but it’s tracks ‘Natural’, ‘West Coast’, ‘Bullet In A Gun’ and ‘Digital’ which provide the few sparks of ingenuity on an otherwise miserably unoriginal record.