Back in 2012, Imagine Dragons released their debut album, Night Visions, and since then they’ve gone to receive massive critical acclaim, and sell over 22 million singles. Not just a one-off track band, their first full length offering shifted 4 million copies worldwide, and their upcoming album deserves to match that. Out on Monday, Smoke + Mirrors is written and produced almost entirely by the band (with additional production by Alex Da Kid), and is the first release to be recorded in their homemade studio. At 18 tracks in length, the deluxe edition is a mammoth release, but quality isn’t lost in the quantity.
Tracks already released off the record include opening Shots, but this is an album full of singles, each with the radio ready sound and infectious choruses. Imagine Dragons have continued the stop-start nature of their music that made hit single Radioactive such a standout, with second track Gold blossoming with this technique, executed pristinely with such high quality production. With its controlled opening and distinct shift to the chorus, the are obvious parallels between the album’s title track and Night Visions’ Demons – this song is another off the record to use the total drop of sound partway through, a trick that become a little too overused throughout, losing its originality.
Bridging the gap between spoken word and singing, staccato Polaroid stands out as one designed from crowd-lead sing alongs at live show, with the same refreshing charm of Ed Sheeran’s Don’t, also present (for rather different reasons) in Friction. An American indie-rock band winding Eastern influences into their music might sound like an absolutely terrible idea, so I’ll have to assure you that it’s not half that bad, though at moments it does seem to create a bit of, uh, friction, in the track. Slower It Comes Back To You would be the perfect token wave-your-lighters-and-sway track, until closer attention reveals the heart-on-sleeve bare faced honesty in the lyrics.
If you spun Coldplay’s Speed Of Sound together with Snow Patrol’s Run, you’d be stabbing pretty close to where Dream lies – right next to the “this has been done before” marker. Polaroid isn’t the only one perfect for open air festivals, and the contagious hooks of Tokyo Police Club-esque Trouble are perfectly suited to the Reading/Leeds stage the band have played before. Hopeless Opus tries its hand at a more experimental sound (including a mix of brilliant/questionable classic rock-esque riffs), before spectacularly intricate The Fall closes the bulk of the album.
Whilst Thief appeals to the rock anthemic side of their music and The Unknown touches on the more eclectic one (possible featuring asquarking exoctic bird?), these opposite variations don’t deduct from how very true the band are to their own style. Penultimate Release provides an acoustic burst, with closing Warriors thriving off everything that brought about a name for Imagine Dragons with their first singles.
As a follow up to Night Visions, the record serves its purpose excellently. However, despite all it’s bizarre moments and lyrical honesty, despite all the development that’s progressed the band in the two and a half years since we last heard from them, there’s the nagging problem that if the record was packaged up and sold as B-sides to their debut, or as Night Visions II, no one would notice. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is a commercially safe route to take, and in some ways they’re very right to do so as it’ll please the fans, but some of the tracks really weren’t worth the wait. Fans of their previous album will love it and it’s sure to be a success due to the quality of the music, with several tracks being something very special, but overall, it’s just a better version of their debut.