REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Band of Horses turn live LP into something of a quiet revelation.

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Band of Horses dial back the bluster on this surprisingly revalatory live album. The results are their most purely enjoyable album in years!

Ryman art

 Band of Horses – Acoustic at the Rymen (Released 11th February 2014 via Columbia)

With their 2006 debut album 'Everything all the Time', Seattle Americana enthusiasts Band of Horses arrived on the scene seemingly fully formed with a practically flawless set of atmospheric, emotional indie rock. Next year's follow-up 'Cease to Begin' was even better, taking the template of the debut album a step further. In the ensuing three years things began to fall apart though. Velvet lunged frontman Ben Bridwell developed a bit of a messiah complex and set about casting aside band members until by 2012's disappointing 'Mirage Rock', he was the only original member remaining in the group. Whilst he was shedding members, Bridwell was also shedding the bands personality though, as both 2010's 'Infinite Arms' and it's follow-up were pleasant but hopelessly generic shadows of the gorgeous records that preceded them. As is often the case though (the same thing happened with Kings of Leon) as a band gets more generic they also get more popular so it would seem we might have lost the 'old' Band of Horses to the stains of time. The old songs are still incredible though, and there's hope that with more stripped down arrangements, even the less loveable later numbers might shine. So I was actually looking forward to this acoustic live album and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, it could be written-off as a 'place-holder', but to my ears it's the best record Band of Horses have put out since 2007. The album is made up of tracks from all 4 of the groups studio albums. Two from Mirage Rocks ('Slow Cruel Hands of Time' and 'Everything's Gonna Be Undone'), Three from Infinite Arms ('Factory', 'Older' and 'Neighbour'), Three from Cease to Begin ('Marry Song', 'Detlef Schrempf' and 'No One's Gonna Love You') and two from EATT ('Wicked Gil' and the breakthrough hit 'Funeral'). Obviously the older songs shine brightest here, with 'No One's Gonna Love You' and 'Funeral' especially hitting home with a real, delicate intimacy that is lent an extra depth by the restrained whoops and hollers of the crowd at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, where the set was recorded. The less celebrated songs are the ones that prove the real revelation though. Ben Bridwell is a talented songwriter, it's just that his bands arrangements have grown increasingly dull. Acoustically though, the melodies are really allowed room to breathe and previously rather dull songs such as the gentle, closing 'Neighbour' are revealed as the beautiful laments they were always meant to be. 'Acoustic at the Ryman' is an album geared towards die-hard fans but for my money, the ones who would benefit most from this record are fans of the bands early years who feel like 'checking in' on one of their old favourites. If this lovely little live album points towards a more subtle 5
th album from Band of Horses, consider me very much back on board.