Friday, October 26, 2007

Band of Horses Cease to Begin

If Ben Bridwell felt any pressure in crafting a worthy successor to his group's debut breakthrough, "Everything All the Time," it hardly shows.

Fitting of a man who wrote a song called "Weed Party," "Cease to Begin" finds Bridwell--his unkempt beard approaching hippie proportions these days--unapologetically baring his dude-bro demeanor. Between albums, he moved back home to South Carolina (from Seattle), inspiring a regional warmth, the musical equivalent of Southern hospitality.

There are no songs here quite as epic or grandiose as "The Funeral" or "The Great Salt Lake," but Bridwell is just as happy to seek peace and comfort in more humble doses. "Cease to Begin" checks in at 10 tracks (that is, if you include the 50-second "Lamb on the Lam") and 35 minutes.

The payoff here is not in sprawling guitar jams, but in Bridwell's high-on-life outlook that is equal parts corny and endearing. On the down-home "Ode to LRC," Bridwell wonders: "The town is so small, how could anybody not look me in the eye and wave as I drive by?" Then, with no hint of irony, he soars: "The world is such a wonderful place."

But Bridwell is at his romantic best on "No One's Gonna Love You," a misleading title given the chorus: "No one's ever gonna love you more than I do." If Bridwell didn't mean it so much, you'd half-expect to hear the friend from "Wayne's World" chime in, "No, I love you, man."

Chuckle if you must. But Bridwell, whose former Horses bandmate Mat Brooke left to work on other projects, seems to thrive on an infallible spirit and certain sincerity in which only the harshest of cynics would find fault.

No comments: