Imagine Dragons - Smoke + Mirrors
It's somewhat of a surprise that the release of Imagine Dragons' second album hasn't been more widely trumpeted. Their debut Night Visions went Platinum in the UK (along with over ten other countries, including shipping over 2m copies in the States) and saw them become one of those bands that you heard on the radio, even if you didn't realise it at the time. Awards soon followed at the likes of the Grammys, with the band remaining in the public's consciousness thanks to guest appearances on the soundtracks of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Somewhat less of a surprise is where their second album Smoke + Mirrors finds the rock four-piece. It's basically where we left them: peddling unashamedly stadium-sized rock, where an anthemic chorus is but a verse away. Sure, tracks such as 'Friction', with its exotic beats, threaten to take things away from the formula, but things soon veer back onto the well-trodden path. It's essentially the four-piece telling you to take it or leave it, and there's as little to persuade new listeners along for the ride as there is to dissuade the established fanbase from lapping it up all over again.
Four or five albums in, our tolerance might be wavering but there's little wrong with a band honing their blueprint on just their second outing, especially when they remember to bring along some ready-made hits. 'Shots' opens the album in huge synth-drenched fashion, Dan Reynolds' charismatic vocals out in full range and the band's keen ear for sharp, quotable lyrics notable from the get-go: "From the second that I was born, I seemed to have a loaded gun / And then I shot, shot, shot a hole through everything I loved." Night Visions had seven singles taken from it, and it's easy to Smoke + Mirrors matching that; even if 'Shots' remains the high point throughout, tracks such as the darker-tinged 'Dreams', euphoric finale 'The Fall' and the tub-thumping 'I Bet My Life' all showcase just how much sharper Imagine Dragons are than most rock outfits currently strumming away.
Smoke + Mirrors has its low moments when even a key change can't save a track, most notably when the tempo is slowed on the dreary 'It Comes Back To You', but overall it's another strong collection of immediate rock anthems from the Las Vegas outfit. Imagine Dragons might not be rewriting the rulebook, yet they're performing from a mightily effective one.