After the Disco
Broken Bells is more than just the side project of two individuals from rather different musical backgrounds coming together to blend indie rock and electronic styles. On the one hand, there is James Mercer of The Shins: his innocent nonsensical poetry has created lyrics that blend with catchy melodies, which placed the band at the head of American indie rock from the early 2000s until now. On the other, there is Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, who earned his glowing reputation through working with Cee Lo Green to create Gnarls Barkley as well as working with acts like the Gorillaz, Beck, and the Black Keys to create a number of albums that remain well-regarded years after their release. With such a good pedigree, Broken Bells are not a band to be taken lightly.
After the Disco, their second LP, finds the band continuing where they left off four years ago with their eponymous debut. It has everything the first album had: the catchy choruses, the fusion of guitar and electronic keys, the background harmonies that sound as if the band is accompanied by a small, slightly auto-tuned choir, and the many additional instruments that make repeated listens so rewarding. However, it may be because of the original’s breadth that this new album isn’t too shocking. It’s still a great listen, and I wouldn’t choose any one song to skip over, yet if fans are interested in hearing something new and improved, After the Disco sounds much like Broken Bells part two.
There are some differences on the new album. It’s more upbeat. For those who disliked the original LP’s occasionally slow pace, this new collection of tunes provides a more sprightly listen. The acoustic guitar has definitely taken somewhat of a backseat. For some, this may be a good thing, but at times this aspect of After the Disco takes away from what made Broken Bells so good to begin with. Their debut was carefully constructed – the listener never knew what the next track would bring. This album is more predictable.
Nevertheless, Mercer’s talent still shines on After the Disco. Holding On For Life, Perfect World, No Matter What You’re Told, and especially Control are dominated by melody. Perhaps because of the similarity between the songs, this new album will be an easier listen from start to finish, a view backed up by The Remains of Rock & Roll – one of the best finales to an album the Shins singer has ever pulled off.