Released June 23rd of this year, the third album from alt-rock group Imagine Dragons, Evolve, presents a unique set of challenges – for both the band and for the listener.
Coming into Evolve, Imagine Dragons faced a challenge that any young band would love to face. Their first album – Night Visions (2012) – produced two mega-hits: “Radioactive” and “Demons” and put the band on more than a few “best new band” lists.
So expectations were high for their second album, Smoke and Mirrors (2015). And it performed adequately, but mixed reviews gave the impression that it was simply riding the coattails of their first effort. So the third album bears the burden of proof as to the band’s success.
For the Millennial listener, the challenge is to let the songs on this album stand on their own merit, without comparisons to those earlier works that reached unexpected heights and set the bar somewhere just under the stratosphere.
Finally, for the Baby Boomer, Evolve presents a challenge most unique. These eleven songs contain – in varying amounts – several elements that my generation finds generally annoying: Rap interludes, rising inflection at the end of phrases, electronic dance beat rhythms, auto-tune, etc. And yet the sound is big and bold and has a spirit of pure Rock ‘n’ Roll. Vocals without timidity, a driving beat and even some decent lead guitar licks all give the Boomer plenty to enjoy.
The result is an interesting dilemma for those of us who grew up during the era of Classic Rock. It’s like a pair of silk pajamas with an irritating tag on the waistband – the overall feel is comfortable, but the annoyance is impossible to ignore. The choice, then, is whether to continue to wear them and hope that in the wearing the irritants soften over time, or just forget and return the it to the store.
For those that choose to see if that tag wears smooth, I offer the following advice.
- Start with the fourth song, “Walking the Wire.” While not the best song on the album, it is Evolve‘s most ’70s-friendly track. Listen at least three times and think of a classic rock comparison (mine was Asia).
- Now move on to track number eight, “Mouth of the River.” Again, listen at least three times. The verses drag a bit, but the chorus soars and the rest of the song rocks along pretty well.
- Next, backtrack to song number five, “Rise Up.” These are Rock vocals – bold and loud and unapologetic. Once again, three times through.
- If, by now, you’ve found nothing enjoyable in Imagine Dragons, you are done – you can close this post and begin eagerly awaiting the next one. But, if you are intrigued by what you’ve heard, lift the needle and gently lower it to the beginning of the album and listen all the way through.
If you found this exercise unrewarding, all you’ve lost is a bit of time. If, on the other hand, you found the experience fulfilling then…Well, what could be better than a comfortable pair of silk pajamas?
Here’s Evolve on Spotify
- According to the band, the name Imagine Dragons is an anagram known only to the band members.
- Like The Killers, Imaging Dragons hail from Las Vegas. Listen to the beginning notes of “Walking the Wire” from Evolve and then from “All These Things That I’ve Done” from The Killers’ Hot Fuss. Coincidence?