Release Date: Jul 15, 2014
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Left-Field Pop
Review Summary: Perhaps the fullest-sounding and most charismatic indie-pop album you’ll hear this year, just in time to become the defining sound of your summer. Upon listening to Bleachers’ debut, Strange Desire, it’s difficult to believe that this is a one man band. Jack Antonoff, the lead guitarist of the ever famous indie-pop group Fun.
Coming off his huge successes as a member of fun. and with his songwriting for Sara Bareilles and Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff could have done pretty much anything he wanted musically. He decided to time travel back to the '80s and write songs for John Hughes-directed high school movies that never happened. That's the short version of what Bleachers is all about, anyway.
If fun. is just Genesis re-imagined for the era of selfies and status updates—and before you scoff too loud, take some time to actually think about it—then Jack Antonoff is the Peter Gabriel of Tumblr and Twitter. “Carry On”, “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” were global pop-rock smashes, not unlike an “Invisible Touch” or a “We Can’t Dance” or a “Mama”.
As the guitarist for pop-rock stars fun., Jack Antonoff helped build a sound that brought Eltonian grandeur to the kind of open-wound introspection that's usually confined to the dark, comfy corners of emo records. With this one-man side project, he goes deeper into his Eighties synth-rock and Arcade Fire influences, piling snazzy hooks and knotty feelings into ravenously over-the-top therapy rock. The hit "I Wanna Get Better," which came with a video directed by his girlfriend, Lena Dunham, sets the mood with its buoyant affliction.
Jack Antonoff has worn many musical hats in his career, from fronting the now-defunct pop rock act Steel Train, being one third of the uber successful fun., and writing songs for the likes of Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift, and Tegan & Sara, to starting his own ‘80s-inspired solo project, Bleachers. While he’s been fairly prolific with a variety of different outlets, he’s never veered away from the bombastic, unapologetic pop song. Strange Desire, his debut album under the Bleachers moniker, is also unreserved in its pop aspirations but an unequivocal clunker in execution.
Ironically enough, Jack Antonoff's side project, Bleachers, is a lot more fun than the more famous band, fun., for which he plays guitar. Strange Desire is also made up of songs a little less annoying than the overplayed and Queen-plagiarizing "Some Nights" and "We Are Young." But "more fun" and "less annoying" are about the only adjectives of note you can attribute to Bleachers. Antonoff may be popular but his songwriting leaves a lot to be desired.
There’s nothing strange about fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff’s desire to take his talents solo on this side project. You’re unlikely to hear a more earnest album than Bleachers' Strange Desire this year, nor are you apt to find a release more faithful to the spirit and sound of Top 40 radio in the late, great ’80s. With the help of super-producer Vince Clarke, Antonoff has crafted songs simpler and more direct than fun.’s mini-symphonies; they have as much in common with the heart-on-the-sleeve songs of his work in Steel Train, and occasionally recall Reagan-era touchstones like the Human League (“Reckless Love,” where Antonoff's lower register brings to mind Philip Oakey).
Bleachers Strange Desire (RCA) If the name Bleachers hints at a rough and tumble garage-punk band in the modern tradition of Ty Segall, the fidgety indie rock of "I Wanna Get Better" and widescreen, Robert Smith-aping goth-pop bombshell "Rollercoaster" will disabuse you of that notion. Fun guitarist Jack Antonoff was finishing up his day job's extensive world tour last year when Strange Desire made it onto tape in secret. It doesn't sound like an afterthought.
For those interested in the tensions between art, commerce, and creative fulfillment, there’s plenty to be read into Jack Antonoff, having finally hit the pop jackpot as guitarist for fun. after years plugging away in under-the-radar bands, releasing a deliberately modest solo album. “Strange Desire” recalls the orchestral new wave that crested toward the mid-’80s; Antonoff’s voice has been multitracked enough to sound like a small football squad (or Andrew W.K.).