Review Summary: There are only so many times we can do this, boys.
At this point, it isn’t even a question that warrants an answer anymore… but I’m asking it anyway. Why, Imagine Dragons? Why are we still doing this? Why are you still
pursuing the same exhausted, overblown, overworked, overproduced, over commercialised nonsense
? In fact, fuck it – I’m done being nice. Why are we still stomping around in this vapid, flaccid, cookie cutter bullshit
Over the last nine years, Las Vegas, Nevada-hailing pop rock (… and arena pop, and alt rock, and electronic rock, and arena rock …) act Imagine Dragons have released a grand total of five albums. And maybe – just, maybe
– across all sixty tracks produced from Night Visions
to Mercury – Act 1
there is a salvageable ten track experience in there that could be crudely pieced together. But you know what? If you did in fact decide to Frankenstein yourself together a listenable Imagine Dragons album from nine years’ worth of (what you would hope to be) accumulated stylistic growth, experimentation, and increased emphasis on trying new ideas for the sake of keeping things fresh and interesting, you wouldn’t have a clue where any of it came from. Because in spite of my snide reference to several genres’ that could technically
be associated with the band, this wasn’t at all to imply that Imagine Dragons actually intends on genuinely committing to any of them. Sure, with the goal of pandering to as many commercial audiences as logistically possible, you’ll get the odd R&B flavoured track, the occasional guitar riff and solo, or some peppered instances of EDM… but it’s all been violently shoved into the Imagine Dragons Magic Music Machine
, and the mincemeat that eventually comes out the other end all looks the fucking same.
Now, to put my cards on the table as open and honestly as possible… I genuinely wanted to like this album. I want to believe that no matter how poor an artist’s output becomes, there is always the chance of recuperation – take Eminem’s whiplash recovery from Revival
, or Nickelback’s Feed the Machine
, for example. I wanted Imagine Dragons to release something that actually drops the pretentious golden eagle of soulless trite that the four-piece has seen fit to wave in our faces for the last decade, and just make something good
. Am I a naïve, optimistic fool for doing so? Sure, why not. Hell, I wanted to like this band
once upon a time… but here we are, and while the group’s latest offering Mercury – Act I
may choose to swan around masquerading as an experience ripe with musical diversity, proudly standing tall to loudly proclaim Act I
as if inferring the beginning of a grand, majestical auditory tale, it does so with the arrogance and stupidity of a sentient plank of wood.
Even just reading through the track list is enough to warrant a quiet groan of exasperation, as you will likely begin to imagine the exaggeratedly bombastic choruses that – no doubt – all chant the track title with the same miserably repetitious manner as has been seen to befit the last four releases from Las Vegas, Nevada’s crown jewel, Imagine Dragons. ‘My Life’, ‘Easy Come Easy Go’, ‘No Time For Toxic People’, ‘Giants’ and ‘One Day’, for instance – all of which I already feel like I’ve heard before the track even begins. I see ‘My Life’, I hear ‘I Bet My Life’. I see ‘One Day’, I hear ‘Monday’ before I’ve even gotten around to listening to the damn thing. I feel like Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For a Dream
being screamed at constantly by Shooter McGavin, and I just want it to stop. By this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or a few readers are now questioning whether or not my ramblings even make sense or where I’m going with this. Well, wherever I’m going, I certainly hope it isn’t in a U-turn back towards this album.
‘My Life’, for instance, is an exhaustingly self-indulgent ballad; Dan Reynolds drearily bears his soul atop a plinky-plonky keyboard melody, with such lyrical choices as ”I’m running out of my mind, is this really my life”
. It’s dull, and it would also appear that Rick Rubin kicked in the studio door at the two-minute, twenty-seven seconds mark with the hopes of inspiring the band to change things up a little. Shockingly, they do… by immediately ripping off U2 for the last minute or so. Elsewhere (and speaking of ripping off), ‘Lonely’ is a blatant stab at the guitar-led pop rock space that Ed Sheeran so comfortably (or not) inhabits, whilst ‘Monday’ is an absolute mess of combined inspirations. On one hand, Reynolds attempts his very best impression of an uncomfortably breathy Michael Jackson, while on the other ‘Monday’ also appears to be dabbling in some instrumental lifting from the likes of Michael Sambello’s ‘Maniac’, until finally it all completely goes to hell with one of the most bizarre Muse-esque electronic breakdowns you are ever likely to hear. It’s bad. There’s no other way of saying it. It’s very, very
And to be honest, it never really improves either.
Second-time Ed Sheeran wannabe number ‘Easy Come Easy Go’ evokes absolutely nothing from the listener, except the unpleasant realisation that the ‘clock’ sound Dan Reynolds emits whilst enunciating certain words is the force fed ASMR trip you wish you’d never had the misfortune to experience. ‘Dull Knives’ also sees fit to borrow some outside influence, and admittedly is something of a surprise as (yes indeed, ladies and gentlemen) Imagine Dragons can now add emo rock (and glam rock, I guess?) to the list of butchered genres now associated with the band, with the four-piece deciding to Edward Scissorhands’ themselves together three and a half minutes of My Chemical Romance/The Darkness inspired pure, unfiltered, rock
– all while flailing miserably in the process.
Elsewhere, ‘Giants’ feebly endeavours to recapture that grandiose ‘Radioactive’ soundscape of better days gone by, yet it is an entirely forgettable attempt up to the moment that Reynolds himself seems to realise the matter and decides to change things up a bit... by screaming. In fact, some of the most hilariously absurd screams you can possibly imagine. It has been a long, long
time since I burst out laughing whilst attempting to seriously critique a bad album, but ‘Giants’ broke that streak with flying colours - and it’s not even the worst thing on here, because that honour goes to ‘Cutthroat’. It is with absolute zero exaggeration that I state the following: ‘Cutthroat’ has to be, hands down, one of the most nonsensical modern pop rock offerings ever produced. Amidst a clunky, awkward instrumental backbone and Dan Reynolds’ hoarse wails of "only one of us gonna make it out alive – try me"
, the track eventually implodes into what is essentially a combination of blasting fog horns and indecipherable screaming with Linkin Park-esque ‘Blackout’ vocal manipulation, and it is terrible.
And, if I’m completely honest, I have nothing else to say about this album. Mercury – Act I
is an awful
hodgepodge of bad decisions that only further hammer home Imagine Dragons’ place among the Nickelback’s of the world. I tried, Imagine Dragons – truly, I did. I wanted nothing more than to be pleasantly surprised by this album, and instead I feel like I’ve been fucking poisoned by it. There’s nothing left except the pitiful desire to crawl into a dark hole and stay there until the manic, incoherent mess of instrumentation and vocal delivery throughout Mercury – Act I
has finally dissipated from my mind. Please, I beg of you, have mercy and just leave me alone.