Broken Bells – After The Disco

The unlikely pairing of James Mercer and Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) has yielded yet another understated album. Most partnerships of this ilk are very sink-or-swim, but this follow up to Mercer and Burton’s self-titled release, aptly named After The Disco, sees the pairing hit a nice, smooth breast-stroke.

With such prestigious previous work under their belts from their own projects, you could probably throw a lot of waffle around about how this doesn’t match up to the indie-cool of The Shins or that this is just another mainstream vessel for Burton. But that wouldn’t do justice to these guys as a band. With a second album release, there is obviously some intent from them to be seen as such, and so they must be judged as such.

Sounding like the come-down from a joyous night out in the bars and clubs, this album is littered with little discotheque touches such as the jingling roll of the title track. There are also countless examples of Bee Gees-inspired vocals, including the lead single, ‘Holding on for Life’, where the chorus has a falsetto worthy of the Gibbs brothers’ best tracks.

Much as with their first effort, there is a lot to appreciate musically. The slick production here is a double-edged sword, one you can either knight them with or slay them with. Each track sounds immaculate but a little too slick at times, so much so that some of the less hook-laden tracks might bypass your attention if you’re not totally invested. It’s as if they work in complete tandem with each other, never encountering an impasse or impassioned moment.

There are certainly more electronics than anything else; ‘The Changing Lights’ and closer ‘The Remains of Rock and Roll’ are testaments to that. But anyone pining for some introspection and an acoustic guitar will find plenty – after all, it is Mercer’s forte to muse. ‘The Angel and the Fool’ is a slow-bullet to space with lines which are of the impressive standard you’ve come to expect from Mercer: “Leaning out the window watch the dying of the sun/ balancing the weight of a pill on your tongue/ She’ll be getting that look in her eyes”.

No track’s fall flat but on an individual level there are some tracks which will eventually become skippable. Both men seem to have lost faith in their regular work, so if this is the kind of stuff which gets them shooting on all cylinders again then it’s for the greater good. More of the same will please anyone who is a fan of either of these two modern music-makers, but to reach beyond that circle they might need to think laterally in terms of the songwriting.

Picture: musicisentropy

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