Imagine Dragons delivered one of the best songs in recent years in Radioactive and I don’t care what anyone says about it. 2015 sees the boys releasing their sophomore effort in record Smoke + Mirrors, an album that had fans waiting with bated breath off the back of comments from lead singer Dan Reynolds promising that nothing would be rushed, and the LP would “differently different.”
Listening to Smoke + Mirrors is differently different – from Imagine Dragons. What it fails to differ from is a varied range of other influences, some subtle, some not so. The experience of listening to Smoke + Mirrors has less in common with the heart pounding super sound I’ve come to love, and more in common with a game of “sounds-like” exclusive charades. So lets play.
The opening track is the glittery pop-rock track that summons U2, The Temper Trap and even a melody similar to Katie Herzig’s Little Bit Of Love Outside. In complete contrast, cheeky track Gold has both a tribal and western flavour, sprinkled with a little Nine Inch Nails. In a similar vain, though not executed quite so well is Friction, like a Middle-Eastern take on The Prodigy that I could do without. Lead track I Bet My Life resets the sounds-like scale, simultaneously sounding like Days by The Kinks, Little Talks by Of Monsters And Men and Riptide by Vance Joy – the backing ooh-ooh-oohs almost identical. Not the first to summon these comparisons, Smoke and Mirrors conjures nothing but Coldplay and Reynolds is at his most Bono-esque on both Trouble and Summer.
While the album is interesting it is ultimately confused. Back to back songs Friction and It Comes Back To You may be neighbours on the track listing but are world’s apart in almost every other way. Smoke + Mirrors would make for the big chorus, mob enticing stadium rock shows that Imagine Dragons are shooting for, but nothing here gets close to Radioactive. My rating left me torn; I’m a fan of these boys but I can’t see too far past the lacking originality. A half point for my lingering love of their biggest hit.