Release Date: Feb 4, 2014
Record label: Columbia
James Mercer introduced Broken Bells — his collaboration with Brian Burton, a.k.a. eclectic producer Danger Mouse — at a time when his primary band, The Shins, was starting to show signs of wear. Their 2007 album, Wincing the Night Away, was missing much of the verve and wonder of their first two albums, and not long thereafter, Mercer had parted ways with the rest of the band, later enlisting members of Crystal Skulls and Modest Mouse for a new phase of The Shins.
Maybe it was the excess of hype preceding Broken Bells' 2010 self-titled debut, but we couldn't help but feel slightly let down by how innocuous it felt. James Mercer and Brian Burton haven't changed up their formula too much since then, but their psychedelic soul-pop doesn't sound nearly as anemic this time around, and the whole album is rich with memorable hooks, as opposed to just the singles. There's very little actual disco here, so don't worry that they've gone EDM - they're still basically a soft rock duo.
‘Supergroup’ is a word that’s fallen out of vogue lately, having become synonymous with unions that aren’t built to last and albums that seldom add up to the sum of their parts. Disappointment and frustration seem inherent in the concept itself, regardless of whether the music is any good or not – the wait for another The Good, The Bad & The Queen record, for example, feels as endless as The Dead Weather’s next does inevitable. Yet while Broken Bells’ individual elements – Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and James Mercer (founder of The Shins) – certainly qualify as ‘super’, the undisputed It-producer of the last decade and His Royal alt.
After The Disco is Broken Bells' attempt at making an album that, while still exhibiting a dash of the duo's musical ingenuity, is more centered around instant accessibility than dazzling artistry. James Mercer's pensive lyricism and Danger Mouse's ability to mold sonics and structures into catchy, abstract-pop continues to be a potent blend throughout After The Disco, only this time, there's a sense of bristling energy and fun that wasn't really found in the emotive art-folk of their eponymous debut. Our first impressions of the album, "Holding On for Life" and "After The Disco," gave the illusion that Broken Bells had crossed into the '80s "futurism"-inspired, dance-pop of today's mainstream, and while there is some truth to that, what Mercer and Danger Mouse are offering us here is a multifaceted album.
It’s Friday night. You and your friends roll up on the club. It has no sign—no flashing marquee to beckon you inside. It doesn’t need one—you know where it is, and even if you didn’t, the line forming outside the front door would’ve tipped you off anyway. After what seems like an ….
At times, Broken Bells' self-titled debut was so hazy that it felt like it was about to dissipate in a cloud of wry West Coast melancholy, but on After the Disco, James Mercer and Brian Burton give that atmosphere a little more form. Building on previous highlights like "The Ghost Inside" and "The High Road," the pair dive deeper into their synth pop, new wave, and disco fascinations to soundtrack songs that, as the album title suggests, are filled with comedowns and disappointments. Former single and standout track "Holding on for Life" uses its slow-motion disco beat and eerie keyboards to underscore the emptiness lurking in lyrics like "what a lovely day to be lonely," cultivating a mood that falls somewhere between desperate and glamorous.
Coming down from a night of partying is often a dismal experience. The wilder the good time is, the follow-up comes in proportionate dreariness, inverting the previous pleasure. Riding that morning after wave, occupying that day of lonely self-reflection is Broken Bells’ sophomore LP, After the Disco. The title itself conveys this sentiment, and a thread runs through the 11 songs bolstering the melancholia, holding up a mirror to cast a dark reflection on the fun that’s come and gone.
Broken Bells, the 2010 collaboration between producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and The Shins lead singer and guitarist James Mercer, raised a few eyebrows when it was initially announced. But the blend of differing styles on offer served up an intriguing effort. Three years after the eponymous album the unlikely partnership are back with the follow-up, After The Disco.
Broken Bells are a collaboration between two guys who sit at very different tables in the music-biz lunchroom. Danger Mouse is a hip-hop-savant-turned-L.A.-superproducer (his credits include Gnarls Barkley, the Black Keys and the next U2 record); James Mercer of the Shins is a singer-songwriter who lives in Portland, Oregon (his credits include a raft of finely wrought indie-pop records, a wife and kids, and a well-kept beard). The idea of these two working together is like an endearing mumblecore actor signing on with a big-budget Hollywood sci-fi director.
When The Shins’ lead vocalist James Mercer and acclaimed yet currently under the radar producer Brian Burton (a.k.a Danger Mouse) teamed up to release their first record as Broken Bells in 2010, the result was a restrained yet intriguing set of songs that pleased all and offended none. Follow up album After The Disco is an elaboration on precisely the same formula, but this time shot through with nostalgic 80s era production that manages to be gloriously catchy and underwhelmingly predictable at the same time. There’s a special kind of magic that happens when the duo gets it right.
First time round, Broken Bells wasn't the trip everyone expected. On paper the coming together of The Shins' James Mercer and hip-hop producer and sometimes-Gorillaz corroborator Danger Mouse had the potential to be a beat-smothered indie behemoth. Yet their 2010 debut LP was a lukewarm wash of psychedelic pop that resembled a less glamorous and more earthly of Montreal.
"I don't need anything from you", goes the refrain to The Changing Lights, one of the standout songs on this album. It then alternates with another line, "I'll still be waiting there for you." Both phrases capture something central about this second collaboration between producer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and Shins frontman James Mercer. Firstly, they give a sense of the album's lyrical themes – decline and disruption, but also a resilience borne of experience.
If you ate your favourite food every day for a year, there's a good chance you'd grow bored of it. What was once fresh, vibrant and exciting eventually becomes stale and grey. When James Mercer essentially delivered a shaky sequel to the first Broken Bells album under the guise of The Shins' Port of Morrow, the warning signs were there. For the first time, Mercer appeared consumed by production tricks that previously coloured his songs so brightly.
A lot has changed since James Mercer formed Broken Bells four years ago with producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse. Broken Bells' roots can be traced to when Mercer lent his voice to the squiggly oddity "Insane Lullaby", a track that landed on the Burton/Mark Linkous project Dark Night of the Soul. You can also draw a line from Mercer's previous album with the Shins, Wincing the Night Away, which moved away from the spiky guitar pop of their first two star-making records towards moodier, more impressionistic territory.
My wife often admits that her love for Nick Cave is tempered by his frequent flirtations with adult contemporary. The same could be said about my feelings toward James Mercer and Danger Mouse's Broken Bells project: As two well-respected artists known for their stellar work separately, their partnership produced a surprisingly safe and unremarkable debut, the kind of effort you'd expect from the likes of Josh Groban, not the brains behind the Shins and the creative force behind The Grey Album. Though expectations are now lowered, Broken Bells' follow-up, After the Disco, still somehow manages to disappoint.
Whatever happened to our indie rock and roll? Broken Bells release their sophomore album, After the Disco, amid a climate that should be asking this question but doesn’t seem to be. Why? Well, the independent music scene has fractured beyond recognition, to the point that pop music is successfully re-branded as an alternative, major labels hold just as much credibility as indies, and the artists that were once heralded as saviors for both traditional pop songwriting and good taste are now acting as reactionaries, maybe in natural response to their sound falling out of fashion, or maybe deliberately following trends. Look at this year alone, as Dum Dum Girls dropped the punk influence in favor of synth tones of ’80s Britpop and dark wave.
In March 2007 I was packed into the London Forum as the The Shins took to the stage for a show in support of their third album, Wincing The Night Away. A group of three "dudes" nearby were semi-ironically and boorishly heckling for the band to "play that song off Garden State". The lithium-heavy comedy-drama that had helped James Mercer's band rocket into indie popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, with its cult standing and Golden Globe-winning soundtrack, had given birth to the sort of gig-ruining attention that was present that night in Kentish Town.
Broken Bells straighten out their priorities on their second album, “After the Disco.” James Mercer, the Shins’ singer and songwriter, and Danger Mouse, the producer whose real name is Brian Burton, staked out a concept on their first album as Broken Bells, the 2010 “Broken Bells”: They ….
When the party’s over and you’re in that transitional space where mirth is giving way to melancholy, when the big beat is giving way to more wistful brooding, Broken Bells is there for you. The inventive twosome of Brian Burton (more commonly known as producer-songwriter-instrumentalist Danger Mouse) and James Mercer (frontman-songwriter for the Shins) follow up their well-received self-titled 2010 debut with another beguiling collection that merges New Wave and dance sensibilities with winsome pop melodies. First single “Holding on for Life” is a great ambassador for the album, with its Bee Gees-style falsetto vocals transforming Saturday night fever into Sunday morning chills.
opinion byBENJI TAYLOR < @benjitaylorwins > "Broken Bells" – it’s a curious moniker, evoking the image of dusty cracked instruments, abandoned in a hidden basement to silent centuries of stony sleep, unable to fulfil the duty for which they were created - to make music. It's a smart satirical name for a group comprising musicians famed for their unbridled creativity and zealous work rate: James Mercer, the creative mastermind behind indie darlings The Shins; and uber-producer Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), a man boasting a golden touch that packs more potency than Phrygia's King Midas. First things first then: it’s a more accomplished LP than their debut - the melodies are dreamier and more inventive, Mercer’s delivery more emotive, and the instrumentation more fertile than the lukewarm neo-psych that pervaded their first album, Broken Bells.
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.
Almost four years on since their well-received debut album, James Mercer of The Shins and Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton re-establish their collaborative Broken Bells guise to impressive effect. Despite the gap separating the releases, neither party has been sitting idle in the interim. Alongside a newly-recruited band, Mercer returned with a fourth album fronting The Shins in 2012, Port of Morrow.
Broken Bells After the Disco (Columbia) Sci-fi sounds strange coming from an Oregonian folk peddler and hip-hop guru, but Broken Bells' sophomore surprise pulses galactic dreams. Landing us smack in the middle of a universe of shiny production and Eighties synth influence, After the Disco quickly settles into a groove balancing Shins frontman James Mercer and production brain Danger Mouse's home genre disparities. The obvious middle ground: New Wave.
After The Disco—the second album from The Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse as their collaboration project, Broken Bells—is unlucky to arrive a year after the release of Random Access Memories. Daft Punk made its record soar by using live instruments (for the most part) and collaborating with disco legend Nile Rodgers, producing a time-traveling trip of a record. After The Disco can’t fully duplicate that trick.