Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Broken Bells – Broken Bells
March 9, 2010

I remember the first time I heard The High Road, and I thought to myself – “How in the world can a song be so catchy, but so flat out simple?”  Producer Brian Burton (you know him as Danger Mouse) and James Mercer (lead singer/writer/ego) of The Shins make up this unlikely duo.  Well, possibly just unlikely at first glance.

The idea, once you think about it, seems wonderful:  James has a knank for writing simple melodies, and Brian’s forte drives right down the neo-soul road.  It’s too bad that the execution only meets each of them halfway.  We’re greeted with two standouts; the previously mentioned The High Road, along with Vaporize.  Poppy guitars and B3 organs are in high demand, and it seems like we’re going to be cruising at a pretty nice pace.  However, the lesson to learn here is that there can be too much of a good thing, and you can only repeat the same idea, as original as it may be, so many times before it starts to drag.  Middle tracks are lost in the shuffle, having one somewhat interesting idea before repeating themselves one too many times, going off into scarce unnecessary instrumental sections.   The songs are recognizable, at least.   Can I tell you what Citizen sounds like?  Yes, I can.  How about The Ghost Inside?  Of course.  The trouble with them is that as soon as they’re finished, the reaction is nothing other than, “that was kind of catchy, but I don’t really care to hear it again.”  You can’t build a record around an idea that just doesn’t stick with any sense of longevity.  It’s a decent record to pull out once every year or two for a spin, but the thought of seeing them live puts me to sleep, which certainly can’t be a good thing.  I’ve never been so torn between hearing catchy songs, but at the same time, thinking how boring they are.  It sounds like a contradiction, I know.  How can something be catchy and boring at the same time?

Welcome to Broken Bells.


If you had to listen to two tracks:  The High Road / October


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