Four years ago, producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, and the Shins’ James Mercer released the debut album from their new and shiny collaboration called Broken Bells. For anyone who liked what these two guys were doing on their own time, the homonymous LP was a pleasant surprise that contained just the right kicks to leave listeners in both camps, if not thrilled, at least sweetly satisfied. At any rate, the record gave room for further exploration. But those of us who enjoyed Broken Bells’ first offering were forced to wait to see where this exciting next step would lead. And the long-expected answer is: not much further away.
The band’s sophomore album, After The Disco (set for release on February 4), still contains Mercer’s engaging falsetto vocals paired with catchy tunes, funky basslines and downtempo beats, but it eventually falls short in showing the artists at their best (which is a lot to say from two lads who are well-known for their visionary talents). This time, the pair seems to have taken elements from their past endeavors and combined them in the safest possible manner, resulting in an enjoyable but unsurprising record with obvious post-disco influences that fit its name just right.
Perfect World serves as the appealing opener that foreshadows After The Disco in an accurate manner, presenting the ambivalent theme of optimistic pessimism that carries on throughout the record: “I thought love would always find the way, but I know better now/It’s a perfect world all the same.” The title track comes next and is without a doubt one of the album’s finest moments thanks to that starry-eyed synth pop that uplifts the spirit and gets you swaying, regardless of whatever it is you’re doing.
The first single, Holding On For Life is basically a funky tribute to the BeeGees that could’ve landed on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack forty years ago. Medicine and No Matter What You’re Told are two more highly enjoyable disco jams packed with engaging hooks and catchy choruses. Less exciting are the clichéd Leave It Alone and The Angel And The Fool, a simple ballad that has a hard time fitting into the album overall.
Even though After The Disco lacks some boldness and experimentation, the record most definitely has its strong moments and, like its predecessor, it’ll please fans from either party who will most likely feel content from the first listen. At the end of the day, if Broken Bells touched something pleasant inside, After The Disco keeps in touch.