After The Disco Album Review
Released February 4, 2014
Genre: Alternative Rock, Disco, Space Rock
Harmony is the brick and mortar for any successful music duo and Broken Bells’ winning combination of Indie-Rock sweetheart James Mercer and production sorcerer Danger Mouse unite once again with unsupposing vigour and ambition. Since their 2010 debut, James Mercer has churned out a generally well favoured Shins album (Port of Morrow) which steered back onto the melodic and punchy grooves that we ached for in the contemplatively lacklustre Wincing the Night Away back in 2007. Paired with the reputable juggernaut Brian Burton whose work has embedded all manner of projects and bands from Gorillaz, to Gnarls Barkley and even the role as unlicensed and symbiotic producer for Jay Z with his ‘introduction to classics 101’, The Grey Album, these artists has individually proved themselves as mavericks of their trade but are Broken Bells a primary exhibit that you can have two much of a good thing? An emphatic “No”.
Dealing with two artists so well versed in their own fields they need not be bogged down or be obscured by a naive haze, they obviously have a massive respect for one another showcased by the quality of tracks produced and the throwbacks to each halves’ respective works. It does seem, however, that Mercer has taken the chairman position in the songwriter department this time round, his introspective soliloquies lace After the Disco like a welcome but melancholy scent, but this is relatively inconsequential; I believe the sentiments elicited from Mercer as a vocalist come more from his emotive melodies than the lyrics whether he be griping over youth, loss, sorrow or love; platonic or otherwise.
This is where After the Disco shines or falls short depending on your disposition. It’s chorusly dense, if there even is such a thing; melodies smear into your conscious and remain cemented there for the foreseeable future after a few listens. Though often speculated as sickly and cheap I think anyone disappointed by the occasionally mawkish ‘ooh’ or ‘yeah’ should have thought twice before purchasing an album titled After the DISCO. The pop sensibilities don’t end there, since first single “Holding on for Life” dropped a while backbaiting scrutiny from Bee-gees obsessives and internet trolls alike. Mercer and Burton have tapped into the main vein of disco influence on this record, something I feel too many bands categorized in ‘nu-disco’ are too timid or meek to commit to.
Broken Bells fear nothing and have no need to. Their music hasn’t digressed much from the foundations they laid earlier in the decade but their blend of engrossing synth-pop like on “Perfect World” or the influence of Mercer’s South-Central infancy on “Leave it Alone” makes for a varying and confident album. Under Producer Danger Mouse’s wing, or the anatomical rodent equivalent, After the Disco paints an altering landscape of energies and influences which often spark beauty and introversion while balancing the less subtle and far rarer nods to rehashed ideas from their debut like on tracks “Medicine” or “Lazy Wonderland” for instance. Satisfying but choppy chord strums at the finale of closing track, “The Remains of Rock’n’Roll”, recapitulate the exact sentiments of Broken Bells, not flawless but truly organic.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: HOLDING ON FOR LIFE / LEAVE IT ALONE / NO MATTER WHAT YOU’RE TOLD
LEAST FAV TRACKS: MEDICINE / LAZY WONDERLAND