After the Disco
Shrouded in doubt after three long years of waiting, the rock duo Broken Bells is back with its second full-length LP, After the Disco. And while remnants of the group’s style from its self-titled release still remain, major shifts in the band’s artistry are evident.
Composed of The Shins’ James Mercer and producer Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse), Broken Bells combines many different styles — rock, hip-hop, electronica to name a few — to create a sound unique from any other. Its first album was an eclectic mix of all of these sounds, with each song having a different tone and style. After the Disco takes a different approach. Mercer and Burton take all the sounds in their repertoire and add in a new element: disco.
The addition of this theme onto each track creates a cohesive album. Whether it’s the funk-heavy bassline and chorus that sounds like it was stolen straight from a Bee Gee’s track on “Holding on for Life” or Mercer hitting falsettos on the title track, the album sounds like it came out a few decades too late — or maybe too early, with the futuristic synths that add a new flare to the archetypal disco tracks.
But as a whole, the duo has scaled back on the instruments used while still maintaining the musical depth of the original album. To complement the toned down music are bleak lyrics. On “The Angel and the Fool,” Mercer’s singing echoes as if he’s in an empty theater as he tells a tale of loneliness and addiction. And despite its name, “Perfect World” talks about unfulfilled dreams and the disappointment that ensues.
After the Disco finds the band stripping down its instrumentation, using only one or two synthesizers combined with a few guitars and a bass. Some tracks, like “Control,” include horns and various other minor sounds not found on the bulk of the album.
On After the Disco, Broken Bells takes listeners to a futuristic disco while tugging at your heart with a melancholy and engaging tale of life.
— Will Jackson
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