Broken Bells | Broken Bells

Columbia (2010)
By ZETH LUNDY  |  March 9, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars


Danger Mouse ( Brian Burton) had a pretty good run through the '00s, a decade that saw him go from a mash-up nobody to producer du jour for a motley assortment of artists. He may have found the perfect partner in the Shins' James Mercer, whose moody pop sensibilities complement Mouse's muted time-capsule colors.

Their debut as Broken Bells actually gives a good name to a term as lame as "folktronica," merging acoustic guitars with distorto drum loops, mangy organs, and a host of blips and bleeps that punctuate the fringes with garbled experimentation. The dour sonic kaleidoscope of the record is undeniably Mouse's, and it even echoes past projects: "The Ghost Inside," with Mercer's pinched Damon Albarn–esque falsetto, recalls Gorillaz circaDemon Days, and the dreamy, soothing psychedelia of "Your Head Is on Fire" is very much on an æsthetic par with Beck's Modern Guilt.

Mercer haunts this thing, however, from the handclap-propelled "The High Road" through the windswept desert terrain of "Mongrel Heart," intoning, "The longer we wait around, the faster the years go by" and "This is a day without a trace of reason." It's a lasting example of carpe diem songmaking caught in the slog of regret and the past — which in fact isn't past, as William Faulkner or Mercer would remind us, but can still make for great pop music.

Related: Ghost stories, Wanting more, Photos: Most popular slideshows of 2009, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Entertainment, Entertainment, Broken Bells,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BROWN BIRD | FITS OF REASON  |  March 18, 2013
    Brown Bird, a boundary-pushing Americana duo from Rhode Island, make music that touches upon that can't-put-my-finger-on-it amalgamation of past and future sounds.
  •   NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS | PUSH THE SKY AWAY  |  February 20, 2013
    Much like the similarly low-key The Boatman's Call , Cave's highly anticipated 15th album with the Bad Seeds manages the puzzling feat of making a great band seem inconsequential, if not entirely absent.
  •   SCOTT WALKER | BISH BOSCH  |  November 27, 2012
    Scott Walker's late-period about-face is one of the strangest in the annals of pop music.
    Bill Withers has always been the down-to-earth, odd-man-out of the '70s soul brothers: he's the one who came bearing a lunch box on the cover of his relaxed 1971 debut, Just as I Am .
  •   R.E.M. | DOCUMENT [25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION]  |  September 19, 2012
    Fans of R.E.M. enjoy arguing over which album was the band's true shark-jump, but 1987's Document was inarguably the end of a groundbreaking era.

 See all articles by: ZETH LUNDY