“A Bit on Cease to Begin — When Band of Horses Saw the Light and Didn’t Care What the Heck You Thought of it”

Sure, it’s hard to argue against the luminescent eliteness of Everything All the Time, the debut album by Band of Horses from 2006. Sonically, it set the tone with gorgeous, fruit-juicy guitars that provided a nice mix counterpart for Ben Bridwell’s soaring vocals that coincidentally seem to have a similarly celestial quality to Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes, another Seattle-based band that emerged around the same time. 

In tone and disposition, then, Cease to Begin marks what’s not an extreme departure from this initial playbook, perhaps encompassing one reason why it seems like an easy album to overlook. I know just in my own listening habits, I cottoned on to it at first pretty easily for the songwriting in “Is There a Ghost,” impressive to boot for its peculiar structure of featuring both an initial verse and chorus which don’t have percussion. 

But there’s just this gaudy type of joy that Ben Bridwell is expressing, as well, and for me at times this element would bubble over into garrulousness or just downright cheesiness. I haven’t really studied the back story of this guy or this band too much but just from the general lyrical narrative I get wafts of a move from Seattle to the rural South, at the latter of which he would rejoice that “Nobody’s outside trying to murder… What the hill (sic) I saw” within “A town so small / How could anybody not / Look you in the eye / Or wave when you drive by?” 

From there he dashes into this perhaps regrettable session of “La-di-da”’s following the quip that “The world is such a wonderful place” and gosh, ya know, I’m ok with expressing joy and cathartic displays of euphoria but this is just an obvious case of half-conscious foray into the puerile, the result ending up something like a kitschy Bright Eyes song or yoga track. 

Elsewhere, though, if you take away that track where he’s like “They lie-de-died” or whatever, this isn’t necessarily the worst rock album. That’s what I’m trying to get at: “No One’s Gonna Love You” is a great joyride and “The General Specific” is more ebullient pop to soundtrack just about anything, whether it’s cookouts or firm solitary ruminations on the future of music. Similarly, the second song, “Ode to LRC,” musters up ample songwriting flair for pumping out of the speakers as something that could inspire a whole zeitgeist. The problem is, though (or maybe it’s a resolution), that Band of Horses have already seen through the realm of zeitgeist, having taken in the heroin-soaked Seattle scene firsthand, and they’re championing things like rural friendliness and balance and sanctity as the kind of indie rock that would end all indie rock, along with Fleet Foxes, Lower Dens and Steve Gunn, for that matter. 

417 thoughts on ““A Bit on <em>Cease to Begin</em> — When Band of Horses Saw the Light and Didn’t Care What the Heck You Thought of it”

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