Sunday, November 27, 2011
Broken Bells Are Far From Broken
Broken Bells is a side project between two unlikely conspirators. With James Mercer of indie poppers the Shins and famed Grey Album producer Danger Mouse coming together in a musical meeting of the minds to create something bigger then both of them. The project while seemingly strange, actually makes more sense than you'd think, especially after you hear it. Meant to be more than just a side project, Broken Bells, is meant to be a full fledged album by a full fledged band that just happens to have two rather famous musicians in it. While Broken Bells could have been a rather tragic team up that was filled with ego boosting material, it is instead a rather brilliant collaboration that illustrates how musicians, no matter how diverse, can always find common ground.
Essentially sounding as if Mercer were abandoned in a bedroom disco for years on end and forced to write songs for a living, Broken Bellsis an indie classic in the making. Mercer and DM try their hardest to stay away from their day jobs, with Danger Mouse adopting live instrumentation instead of sampling, and James Mercer challenging his vocals and pop sensibility in ways the Shins don't, inevitably Broken Bellsat times sounds like the Shins with a back beat. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as the Shins have always hinted that they were capable of such shuffly bedsit pop especially on something like their classic, "Sealegs." Comparisons aside, the band really solidifies itself as something more than a side project, simply because the chemistry, songwriting, and creativity between the two artists is so strong. The material they've come up here with is so good that it's easy to forget that Mercer and DM are rather famous in their own right and that Broken Bells isn't their primary focus.
At times downtempo and mellow and at others completely upfront and poppy, Broken Bells is as laid back as it is jolly. Chalk it up to their mind set or the different approach that the band took in recording this record, but Broken Bellsis a great record that is hopefully the start of a long and beautiful friendship. From the lazy, lush, and mellowed out strums of, "Citizen," to the Papas Fritas like groove of, "The Ghost Inside," Broken Bells shows that the time Mercer and Danger Mouse have spent together has been super successful on both a personal and musical level. In listening to Broken Bellsyou can hear how this project has helped both Mercer and Danger Mouse grow as individual artists. In fact, my hope is that this push and desire to do things differently will not only lead to further collaborations, but enrich their songwriting abilities outside of Broken Bells. Utilizing a new strategy to record and challenging themselves to create music that was different then they were used to has allowed Broken Bells to develop it's own identity and as a result create a fantastic record that's all their own.