Broken Bells | Broken Bells

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

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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.

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