Review: Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

by Greg Call

Band of Horses, Cease to Begin (Subpop, 2007)
Personnel: Ben Bridwell, Rob Hampton, Creighton Barrett
Running time: 34:50

Intro: “The Funeral,” blah blah, blog band, blah blah, Mat Brooke’s departure, blah blah, moved to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. This has all been covered in other reviews, so I’ll just move on to a discussion of each track.

Horses
1. Is There a Ghost: This is the single and the band’s laudable attempt to serve up another slice of their most popular song from their debut. It starts with a simple guitar figure, then builds to a chugging, propulsive, and sustained climax. Lyrically, it’s just three lines repeated over and over (ignore the annoying tense problem –“when I lived alone/is there a ghost in my house?”). Very effective.

2. Ode to LRC: Sassy southern rock verses alternate here with a soft, pretty bridge, including a non-ironic “the world’s such a wonderful place.” There are not enough “La-dee-dahs” in indie rock.

3. No One’s Gonna Love You: This is one of the stronger tracks, and shows that Bridwell’s writing has a few more great melodies up his tattoo sleeve. Unfortunately, like some of the stronger tracks on the debut, it will be ignored because it doesn’t have the dynamic gusto of “Funeral” or “Great Salt Lake.” It also shows off Bridwell’s interesting phrasing. People compare Bridwell to Jim James or Wayne Coyne, but his vocal style is interesting in its own right.

4. Detlef Schrempf: Like the prior track, this is a showcase for Bridwell’s heartfelt singing. He must have really loved that three-point deadeye Deutscher.

5. The General Specific: These sounds like a direct descendent of Everything‘s “Weed Party” — a boot-stomping clap-along.

6. Lam on the Lam (In the City): This is a little piffle of an instrumental interlude.

7. Islands on the Coast: The densest, rockingest song on the record. But it doesn’t really go anywhere memorable.

8. Marry Song: A somewhat boring southern-tinged folk number, with double tracked vocals replacing the usual reverb. I could see the Black Crowes trying something like this, with dumber lyrics.

9. Cigarettes, Wedding Bands: This is the goods. A great rock song with a powerful chorus.

10. Window Blues: Another slow jam, a pretty one at that. The banjo that added so much on Everything shows up here to nice effect.

As someone who really, really liked Everything (see my review here (which Pitchfork shamelessly cribbed from)), I must confess that Cease is a bit of a letdown. It’s somewhat uneven and doesn’t move the ball much beyond the debut. Still, Bridwell shows that he’s got more terrific melodies in that sentimental, pot-addled head of his, and his singing voice is stronger and more prominent in the mix. I hope he keeps putting out concise, thoroughly enjoyable albums even if this one gets him booted off the critic’s darling list.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

  1. Greg, thanks for the review. I like Cease more than you, I think, but I agree that it is simply not as complex or interesting as Everything.

  2. Agreed, probably not as good as Everything all the time, but Cease to Begin is better than you paint it hear (with very spare strokes, I might add). For all that, Band of Horses is amazing live. We saw them open for Dinosaur Jr. in LA just before they released this album and they were by far the better act of the night.

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