The music on 2006's Everything All the Time, Band of Horses' breakthrough CD, could serve as the soundtrack for the originality-vs.-inspiration debate. There was nothing novel about the disc, with most ditties overtly recalling assorted expressionistic, guitar-driven predecessors. Yet the tunes were so passionately performed that they frequently made freshness and innovation seem beside the point.
The tension between these elements plays out to slightly lesser effect on Cease, for reasons that are tough to quantify. Despite the departure of songwriter Mat Brooke, Ben Bridwell-warbled tracks such as the driving "Is There a Ghost" and the lovely air inexplicably dubbed "Detlef Schrempf" represent solid stuff. Equally strong is "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands," which integrates rootsy sensibilities with aggressive riffology. But lyrics such as "The world is such a wonderful place" (from "Ode to LRC") don't drip with insight, and the sonic familiarity of "Marry Song" and "Window Blues" proves to be a limitation, not a revelation.
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Cease is catchy, tuneful and sincere, but a bit minor. It could have used more Horse power.