sat 05/12/2020

CD: Broken Bells – After the Disco | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Broken Bells – After the Disco

CD: Broken Bells – After the Disco

Underwhelming second album from union of Danger Mouse and Shins-man

Broken Bells' 'After the Disco': a pep-free zone

It’s a good thing After the Disco turned up in the post last November. Initial listens suggested it as a slight follow up to 2010’s eponymous debut. Living with the new album and allowing it to bed in was obviously the way to go. Unfortunately, repeated revisits haven’t revealed any depth or much to grab onto. The thin gruel that is After the Disco isn’t a worthy successor to Broken Bells and is nothing its creators Danger Mouse and James Mercer should be proud of.

It’s a good thing After the Disco turned up in the post last November. Initial listens suggested it as a slight follow up to 2010’s eponymous debut. Living with the new album and allowing it to bed in was obviously the way to go. Unfortunately, repeated revisits haven’t revealed any depth or much to grab onto. The thin gruel that is After the Disco isn’t a worthy successor to Broken Bells and is nothing its creators Danger Mouse and James Mercer should be proud of. Yet more listens raise the questions of what this is for and why did they bother?

After the Disco is propelled by either chugging and staccato synthetic beats and topped off with Mercer’s light, pitched-high vocals which occasionally, as when multi-tracked on “Holding on For Life”, edge towards The Bee Gees. The instrumentation is dominated by standard electropop keyboard delivered in clipped stabs or as a wash. Guitars crop up here and there to bring colour or fill space in the middle of a song with a solo. The repetitive melodies are unmemorable and rarely take off. The mood is doleful. The lyrics are about letting go, loneliness, loss and feeling desolate. Overall, the effect is of Eighties British synth-popper Howard Jones were he feeling very sad indeed and then given a light infusion of psychedelic trappings which peak on the George Harrison-ish "Lazy Wonderland". “Control” though is a ringer for the Jones’s contemporaries Thompson Twins, whose “We are Detective” also haunts "No Matter What You're Told". Nothing new is brought to the table with the pep-free After the Disco. Only when the formula is abandoned on the acoustic-centred penultimate track "The Angel and the Fool" does anything suggest the album is more than an exercise.

On their own – and previously as Broken Bells – Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and Mercer are a fascinating, innovative duo and always worth keeping track of. The latter’s The Shins changed the direction of American rock. Burton – as a musician and producer – has steered a wayward path that’s joyfully yielded nugget after nugget. Sadly, this plodding effort is not one of those.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Overleaf: watch Broken Bells perform an acoustic version of After the Disco’s “Holding on for Life”

Watch Broken Bells perform an acoustic version of After the Disco’s “Holding on for Life”

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