Even though popular music is currently traversing yet another stretch of the dreaded, guitar-exiled "Rock Is Dead" highway, someone forgot to tell a whole bunch of indie rock bands that just keep chugging along on the shoulders. I'm talking about groups like fun., Foster the People, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys—just to name a few—that continue to build buzz as they whimsically lob arena-ready anthems onto pop singles charts otherwise dominated by EDM, R&B and rap practitioners.
"It's Time" adds Imagine Dragons to that list. The Las Vegas band's single from its debut album Night Visions has been a steadfast presence on the alternative rock chart for much of 2012, creeping its way toward the Top 20 on the mainstream singles chart as well.
Credit for that goes to the band's skill at crafting big, catchy hooks. This song in particular features an infectious blend of clapping and mandolin—an instrument that's seen an unlikely revival this year. Lest that sound too much like the description of a Mumford & Sons song, however, Imagine Dragons also blends in piano and synthy rock elements, pushing the overall vibe closer to something you might expect from fellow Vegas natives The Killers or perhaps The Fray.
Writing about Imagine Dragons' sound at allmusic.com, reviewer Gregory Heaney says, "While a move like this might seem overly ambitious for a freshman band, Imagine Dragons are able to pull the sound off, with songs like the already ubiquitous, seemingly soundtrack-ready 'It's Time' having no trouble worming their way into whatever part of the brain it is that likes to trap songs against listeners' will."
As for figuring out what the song is actually about once it worms its way into your mind, well, that's a bit more challenging than describing how it got there to begin with.
Take the opening verse, for instance: "So this is what you meant/When you said that you were spent/And now it's time to build from the bottom of the pit/Right to the top/Don't hold back/Packing my bags and giving the Academy a rain check."
About the most I can immediately discern from lyrics such as those is that things seem to be moving in a positive direction, climbing out of the pit and moving toward the top of, well, something.
That vague but optimistic vibe continues throughout the rest of the song. "I don't want to ever let you down," frontman Dan Reynolds insists in the next verse, "I don't ever want to leave this town/'Cause after all/The city never sleeps at night."
The band revisits the theme of plodding your way out of the depths of darkness toward illuminated glory in the third verse, which speaks obliquely of a spiritual journey of sorts: "So this is where you fell/And I am left to sell/The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell/Right to the top/Don't look back."
And then the chorus: "It's time to begin, isn't it?/I'll get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit/I'm just the same as I was/Now don't you understand/That I'm never changing who I am?"
Those last two lines defy precise interpretation, and they do seem to push just a bit against what we've already heard. But in the overall context of the song's intent to keep moving upward, they still could be heard as a man's determination not to let critics push him from that path.
And speaking of paths, the one the band trods in the accompanying video feels like something straight out of The Lord of the Rings … or perhaps the movie 2012. Under ashen and foreboding skies that wouldn't have looked out of place over Sauron's dark realm of Mordor, the four band members wander through a ruinous, post-apocalyptic desert complete with rusted vehicles and a structure that looks suspiciously like the Golden Gate Bridge protruding from the sand.
Then bassist Ben McKee buries a luminescent rock in the ground.
And the band runs.
Good thing, too, because a massive explosion soon erupts, hurling Reynolds skyward. It seems a bleak ending … until the explosion tears a hole in the dark blanket of clouds to reveal penetrating rays of (presumably) life-giving sunlight.
Just like the song, then, there seems to be here a genuine glimmer of hope amid the dimness.