Thursday, April 15
Broken Bells: Meh
Artist: Broken Bells
Album: Broken Bells
Comments: A few nights ago, a friend and I decided to get drunk on his rooftop porch. We discussed myriad things (Mike Tyson Punch-Out, girls with flat stomachs, rock bands, which direction South was), but the most compelling conversation we had was about collaboration.
Artists and creative types will go on and on about how important collaboration is to the creative process. And, yes, there are plenty of examples to back this up. However, no amount of collaborating can ever substitute for clear creative vision, and sometimes team-ups are nothing more than people coming together to mix talents that don't naturally run perpendicular to each other.
Broken Bells, the new project featuring the Shins' James Mercer and Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse, is an example of the second kind of collaberation. Their self-titled debut album isn't so much “bad” as it is “unnecessary.”
The record is a moody pop affair, sounding somewhat like the emotional, brooding little brother to Danger Mouses' other, more fleshed out albums with Gnarls Barkley. At its best moments, the album is able to combine Mouse's soulful dark soul music with Mercer's finer pop sensibility, resulting in songs that are sad, but pleasant ("Your Head Is On Fire"). At its average moments, it sounds like Gnarls Barkley b-sides ("The Ghost Inside").
What the album lacks is focus. Broken Bells is an album of electronic sad-pop made for no other reason than the boredom or stagnation of the primary artists' other gigs. There is no drive, no greater idea past “Danger Mouse makes a song, and Mercer sings on it.”
Does it make for good music? Kind of, but it is never so good that you will really care about it.
Key Tracks: Any of them, I guess. This is such a benign album that I don't even have the energy to go back and see what I like.
Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip it.