By Andy Dunbar
Nevada-based alternative pop band Imagine Dragons released their third full-length studio album, “Evolve,” earlier this summer. The recording features production from Jayson DeZuzio, John Hill and Joel Little. The band’s previous works include 2012’s “Night Visions” and “Smoke + Mirrors” in 2014.
To start on a positive note, this album features excellent production and effectively utilizes percussion to maintain an upbeat and energetic tone throughout, usually featuring it as the backbone for each song. Lead singer Dan Reynolds has a great voice and the vocals are a joy to listen to.
The tracks receiving the most radio play and listens to date are “Believer” and “Thunder.” Personal favorite tracks are “Yesterday,” which features a piano-driven three-quarters-time signature (a breath of fresh air), and “Walking the Wire,” a feel-good, bass-heavy track. The strings are notable, especially in “Believer,” and the piano — when it is used liberally — sounds great.
Unfortunately, the majority of this record devolves into a blend of poorly written songs with overly loud choruses clearly made solely for radio, and features absurdly repetitive song structure.
Imagine Dragons has never been popular for its poetic brilliance, but for fun, creative melodies and big, stadium choruses that are always easy to sing along to.
Just picking a track from “Evolve” and playing it while driving around is harmless fun.
But sitting down and listening to all 40 minutes straight as an album, it becomes less a work of art and more a shallow, chorus-driven, made-for-radio mess.
When an album has low, short verses that only serve to set up the chorus, that chorus, however booming, becomes predictable, unsatisfying and tiresome when it does come around. It becomes especially frustrating when nearly every song on the album has this structure. Prime examples are “Rise Up” and “Believer.”
Predictability kills any positive album-listening experience, and the only reprieves are “Yesterday,” a wacky and joyful reflection on past decisions, and “Dancing in the Dark,” a fuzzy, mellow, vocal-driven track.
What made “Night Visions” refreshing and fun in 2012 paved the way for Imagine Dragons’ own downfall. A band cannot survive for long solely on its energy — no matter how many fun, commercialized bangers are pumped out over the following years trying to repeat its own past success — without a change in style.
This brings us to the big irony: the title. Simply naming one’s album “Evolve” does not change the fact that the music within has not evolved. In the end, casual listeners can nod along to a few catchy songs and have a good time, but anyone looking for something with more substance will need to find it elsewhere.