“After The Disco” album review

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Known best for their psychedelic indie-rock sounds, Broken Bells is a collaborative group made up of two talented individuals on opposite ends of the musical playing field. Brian Joseph Burton (under the alias “Danger Mouse”), the hip-hop centered grammy award-winning music producer, is most known for his role in Gnarles Barkly with Cee Lo Green. James Mercer, a successful indie rock singer-songwriter, is best known for his lead singing role in The Shins. Although the combination is diverse, the band has proven that it’s far from dysfunctional.

Unlike their synth 2010 debut, Broken Bells’ second full-length album “After The Disco” (officially released on Feb. 4) lacks key elements that show these visionary artists at their best. The album is full of songs with catchy synthesized tunes along with low funky beats and Mercer’s unique haunting vocals. However, the album seems to show the pair only sticking to the things they’ve already done. They’ve combined their earlier musical aspects in the safest possible way, resulting in an appropriately post-disco sounding album.

They were wise enough to put their best cards on the table with their opener, “Perfect World.” The song is a crowd-pleasing, steady rhythm featuring successful vocals that help you look past the uneasy electric guitar solo and the futuristic laser beam sounding instrumentals. The song is fun, enjoyable and ultimately one of the better tracks on the album.

The title track “After The Disco” follows the first song, and is similar in the aspect that it too is an appealing melody with the help of sparkling-synth and pop beats. The song says “after the disco all of the shine just faded away,” and it couldn’t have foreshadowed the album any better.

Although the first two songs were intriguing, the rest of the album began to sound the same due to the same drum beats and vocal ranges. It’s inevitable that an album that has entirely disco-influenced songs would begin to sound pretty desperate pretty quickly.

“Medicine,” “Control” and “No Matter What You’re Told” are three of the album’s most disco/boogie influenced jams packed with decent tunes and lyrics, but all of the songs repeat what the artists have done before. “The Remains Of Rock n’ Roll” is the song with the most obvious influences from their first album. While these songs aren’t musically groundbreaking for the pair, they at least fit into the post-disco themed record unlike the less exciting songs “Leave It Alone” and “The Angel And The Fool.” Both of these songs are desperate ballads that are really cliché and out of touch with the record’s theme.

Of all 11 songs on the album, I have to say that the best song is its Bee Gees sounding single “Holding On for Life.” The song includes dull pulsing beats and unexpectedly sober sounding harmonies compared to the duo’s previous work.

Even though “After The Disco” seriously lacks the boldness which Broken Bells has shown it is capable of, the album is still worth a listen. Successfully, the tracks capture musical elements from the post-disco era while mixing in some modern techniques through electric guitars and downtbeat bass. Although it’s a lot closer to the safe side than other songs they’ve created, they still have managed to create another interesting album.