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Posted on February 9th, 2014 (10:15 am) by Theresa Flanagan

Everyone and their mother has weighed in on superduo James Mercer and Danger Mouse's second full-length record as Broken Bells, so we figured it was time we did as well. After The Disco is pretty much everything you would expect it to be, from its title to the collaborators who made it. Both Broken Bells and After The Disco inspire a sense of dissipated, post-celebration comedown. What happens when you take The Shins' melancholy dream pop, mix it with Danger Mouse's production skills, and throw in a hint of disco? Well, After The Disco, of course. It's more straightforward than Mercer's work with The Shins, with more predictable patterns and less unique lyrics. It's less overtly "indie," more generally accessible. Overall, After The Disco is less independently influential, and more outwardly influenced by the current music scene.

As much as it is unavoidable to be reminded of The Shins, what with Mercer's undeniably recognizable voice, there are a lot of other familiar sounds to be heard on After The Disco. They led off their singles with the most disco track of the bunch, "Holding On For Life." Once Mercer hits falsetto range forty seconds in, there is a distinct Bee Gees flare going on which sticks through the chorus, and perhaps in the simple (go watch this video. now.) bassline that runs throughout. Unsurprisingly, "After The Disco" is another particularly disco flavored track, with a slightly more complex bassline to carry it along. We're not ragging on Mercer's or Brian Burton's (a.k.a. Danger Mouse) bass skills, in fact the basslines of "No Matter What You're Told" and "The Remains Of Rock & Roll" may be the best things about them.

To return to some other familiar sounds, once you hear that opening track "Perfect World" is in the same key and follows a somewhat similar melodic pattern at times as fellow '00s melancholy indie rock giants Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into The Dark," it's kind of hard to unhear. Now that we're busy making indie rock comparisons, let's bring The Black Keys into the discussion, because for "Leave It Alone" we kind of have to. It's a tempered down, smoothed out rendition of something The Black Keys have already done best, admittedly with Burton's help on El Camino.

The thing about taking two highly successful musicians and sticking them together in a supergroup is that it comes with a lot of expectations. We expect Broken Bells to be innovative and dynamic in a way they just aren't on After The Disco. From someone else with less under their belts than either Mercer or Danger Mouse, let alone the two combined, After The Disco might have made more of an impact. But from these two, it falls short. It's pleasant enough to listen to and certainly accessible to a wide audience, but in a sort of lazy, less-than-inspiring way. Getting chopped up and cut off in Jacob Gentry's two part sci-fi short featuring Anton Yelchin and Kate Mara isn't nearly as tantalizing as it would be if these songs were more interesting. But they do work well with the medium; check out the futuristic love story below. The duo will be on a tour stretching across North America and heading over to Europe before making it back in time to play a few festivals, including Coachella and Governor's Ball.

Track List:

  1. Perfect World
  2. After The Disco
  3. Holding On For Life
  4. Leave It Alone
  5. The Changing Lights
  6. Control
  7. Lazy Wonderland
  8. Medicine
  9. No Matter What You're Told
  10. The Angel and The Fool
  11. The Remains of Rock & Roll
Broken Bells: After The Disco
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

60 / 100
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