Review: Broken Bells – After the Disco

There will be a lot of talk about how this album is a more mellow, indie counterpoint in the disco revival already begun with Daft Punk. It may be that, but I think it’s more. One listen through I’m definitely picking up 70’s vibes, but more of Rumours and Let it Be variety.

Now that I’ve said that, let me also say that this album is probably not going to become culturally iconic. I think it lacks the gravitas and the pretext to be compared with either of those great records. But comparisons with the era-defining Beegees will abound, and they will be accurate. Fortunately for robust music lovers, the good things about Broken Bells don’t end there.

Throughout the record you have a “neo-disco” bounciness in a sound that is at once vintage and futuristic. I think that’s pretty hard to accomplish. The vocals are reliably catchy (“Holding on for Life” is a daily listen/head-bob-along in my house right now) and at different points in the record, Broken Bells’ sound influences meander from a Death Cab vocal pattern (“Perfect World”), to the Shins acoustic motif (“Leave it Alone”), and by the last quarter of the album, even a “Long and Winding Road” McCartney-esque mood mixed with a sultry “Rhiannon” vibe.

But for every classic quality, the album also features all the trappings of intricately orchestrated 2014 indie power-pop with every soulful and postmodern thing you would expect from a collaboration between Danger Mouse and James Mercer. Its sound is sweeping, dramatic and tightly-produced. Even when the lyrics become a little too sad (on the title track, for one), the song’s musicianship carries the album forward to an overall positive and listenable place.

So while it’s not it’s not a redefiner of the genre, or a pioneer or something new, it is really good music that will have cross-generational appeal. Definitely worth your time and money. Finally, enjoy the epic, mysterious and sci-fi-derived video for “Holding On For Life.”


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