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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Broken Bells breaks free after the disco

Published: February 14, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Broken Bells, the American indie rock band composed of artist-producer Brian Burton (also known as Danger Mouse) and James Mercer, came out with their new album “After the Disco” on Feb. 4. Even though many fans seemed disappointed by the band’s new songs because they lack energy or any sort of dance groove to them, Broken Bells claims to feel a sense of liberation with their new album.

The theme of outer space inspired their new songs, being especially vivid in the music video “Holding On for Life,” which replicates a “Star Wars” kind of environment. This song sounds as though it has a lot of influence from the Bee Gees’ famous hit “Stayin’ Alive,” as it contains a sort of disco-drum track (as the title “After the Disco” suggests) and includes a falsetto voice in the background. The video also seems to embody the motif of letting go, as a lot of the songs have a sort of loose feeling to them, especially as the scenes start becoming slow-motion images of movement to symbolize the passage of time and a party scene with glow-in-the-dark lights, drinks and actions that emphasize this almost hypnotic kind of feel to the music.

Their songs contain an influence of slick synth-pop, post-punk and laidback style, and their song “Lazy Wonderland” already hints at the chill vibes that the band tries to induce in the songs. Despite the calmness of the music, however, the lyrics of the songs are surprisingly melancholy. Words such as “prison,” “lonely,” ”hurting,” “smoke,” “bombs,” “falling” and “fading” are all included in just the one song “Medicine.”

These songs also contain a lot of phrases that represent the loss of love. In the song “A Perfect World,” the words allude to the fact that there is no love. The singer says, “I thought love would always find a way/But I know better now,” and the “heart of all my pain” also refers to the heartbreak that he suffers through after realizing that the love could “all be over now” in the lyrics of “Leave it Alone.” However, the repetition of the same theme in this album may seem too cliche and certainly reveals the band’s desperation to incorporate their depressing feelings into their songs. In the process, unfortunately, they seemed to be trying too hard to express these sad emotions and ended up sounding overdramatic.

The music, however, sounds too formulaic and pop-like to be considered anything “new.” There is no creative experimentation nor is there any maturation of the songs, and it seems as though the band threw the album together on a sort of whim, not trying to accomplish anything major. The band depends too much on influences from music of the ’70s, some ’80s synth-pop and Lynchian rock. They use too many song progressions from bands such as The Shins (which makes sense, since James Mercer is the lead singer and guitarist of this band) and Muse, all of which confirms that they are not going anywhere with their music but rather staying static in the musical sense.

This album contains more or less the same rhythms and harmonies as the first album, as the band focused too much on the lyrics of the songs than the actual instrumental aspect of the music, leaving their audience feeling let down and wondering if it was even worth it for Broken Bells to have made a new album in the first place.