Thursday, April 15, 2010

Record Review: Broken Bells - Broken Bells

Writing about a James Mercer project is a little nostalgic for me. Not quite in the his-music-is-SOOOO-important-to-me kind of way you might expect, though. I mean, there was a time when The Shins were my favorite band (and I'm happy to report it didn't coincide with the release of Garden State, thank you very much). I think that time concluded when I saw them play live at the Atlanta Civic Center (which, to be fair, is a TERRIBLE venue for live music) and it was as if I'd put in the album and pressed play. Boring. The whole thing was so stilted that I never quite returned to them.

What I'm remembering is that I read a review of the last Shins record, Wincing The Night Away (Jan. 2007) in some magazine...I'm thinking The Big Takeover...a few months after its release. That summer, I was a recent grad and an aimless intern at Athens Magazine, and I read the review over my lunch one day. I had bought the album a few months previous and it was one of my current faves, in heavy rotation almost every day, and when I read the review (which I can't find online despite my best efforts) it just...made sense to me. The writer's descriptions of songs on the album, and the overall way they tied it together--I seem to remember them describing "Australia" as a "gentle rockabilly" or something to that effect--I thought was something to admire. I also thought, "I could never write about music like that."

And I never wrote about The Shins. Not for a publication, at least. Wincing The Night Away was their final release, at least for now. The band has suffered lineup losses after domestic violence drama and infighting, and the members now seem to be off deliberately working on other things.

Enter Broken Bells. It's a very different beast, to be sure, but it's still a Mercer project and it's still something that back at that lunch table, I thought I'd never do.


For Flagpole:

Broken Bells
Broken Bells

Columbia

If the collaboration between sensitive songwriter James Mercer of The Shins and provocative producer Danger Mouse (former Athens musician and WUOG DJ Brian Burton) of Gnarls Barkley fame seems an unlikely one, the natural feel of Broken Bells’ self-titled record proves even more improbable. After working with the likes of Gorillaz, MF DOOM and Beck as well as on a myriad of other projects, Burton’s contribution to Broken Bells brings the sneaking suspense of Demon Days and the maximalist multiculturalism of St. Elsewhere to meet Mercer’s acute lyricism and lilting melodic skill...[Read more]

1 comment:

bazookaluca said...

Saw them on the (endless)"Chutes Too Narrow" tour and thought the same thing—good, but just like the record.