Imagine Dragons has gotten huge since 2012: from biggest rock hit (“Radioactive”) to pounding giant drums during their Grammy remix with Kendrick Lamar. One album later, the Las Vegas band proves they’ve been bitten by ambition, delivering a new collection of potential hits:exactly as planned.
Imagine Dragons are trying to take outdo their first album-a challenge for sure, considering its monstrous success-by trying everything, all at once. “Smoke + Mirrors” builds on their standard clap-stomp anthems, sampling everything from crisp, radio-friendly beats to tawdry genre references.
They roll out a primal, jagged groove on “Friction”, bust a cheesy vintage guitar solo on “Hopeless Opus” and add some bass and guitar murmurings to the Pheonix-tinged “Summer”. The Black Keys grit is channeled on “I’m So Sorry”, the folksy strum of The Lumineers on “I Bet My Life” and “Trouble”.
Still, for all the bright melodies and dancey synths, there isn’t much substance there. Imagine Dragons achieves the ironic task of creating an album that is at once deafeningly full yet uncomfortably empty.
Distracting listeners with their juxtapositions of sounds and genres and sweeping them off their feet with enormous hooks, they hide the fact that their songs are all a repetitious onslaught of self-deprecating poetry and a practiced grandiosity.
Perhaps during the slow ballads one can actually begin to believe their vulnerability (although they still paint the backdrops with subtle but unnecessary sing-alongs and drifting synths).
It’s on looser, laid-back tracks like”It Comes Back To You” and “Polaroid” that the band sounds less pretentious. Reynolds offers us his lonely falsetto on “Dreams” and its tender, wavering chorus of “Leave me to dream” lingers deliciously in the ears.
Lyrics-wise they attempt a “grappling with fame” cliche, apparently disappointed and deceived by the world. On the hip-hop infused “Gold” Reynolds sings “First comes the blessing of all that you dreamed/But then comes the curses of diamonds and rings”.Yet their obvious mass appeal agenda and empty theatrics show that this band is clearly reveling in their Midas touch.