Broken Bells' debut album is good, but doesn't live up to lofty expectations

James Mercer, Shins frontman, agent of delicious indie pop for the masses. Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), the genius behind The Grey Album and half of Gnarls Barkley, i.e. the ambassador of slick, creative production. A match made in heaven. …Or is it?

The answer is that I believe it can be, but unfortunately the duo missed out on that opportunity the first time around. Where they could have shown the world their extraordinary collaborative talent on Broken Bells’ self-titled debut album, the moments of pop mastery are too few and far between. Instead of being an exceptional, blows-your-mind album of epic proportions, which it certainly could have been capable of, it’s merely a middle of the pack, slightly above-average indie pop album.

Do realize that these kinds of efforts are placed into a context. When we fail to meet expectations in life, people will probably look down on us in disappointment as they were expecting only the best. And the best to them is relative – it’s what they’ve known of us in the past. So as I listen to Broken Bells I’m left feeling at a loss. The album doesn’t go to holy places; it doesn’t make me smile in bliss. Don’t get me wrong, each track has its merit and is pretty catchy and crafty. But I’m left listening in content rather than in much needed satisfaction.

They could have swung for the fences and missed, but if you’re going to collaborate as such strong individual artists, that’s exactly what I want! I don’t want relaxing material that will be pleasant to listen during long walks on sunny days. I’m looking for that next step, that extra level of ethereal engagement with the sound from the dynamic electronica (parts of “The Mall & The Misery” come close) and Mercer’s singular vocals. Can’t he just belt out a full song with his falsetto vocals (“The Ghost Inside” notwithstanding – there’s no belting)?? Can’t we get an over-the-top, fervent dance anthem from Danger Mouse?? Everything seems overly subdued, as if they’re afraid of reaching for the sky. Please don’t be fellas. We know you have the chops, so use them.

Broken Bells – “The High Road” [MP3]

Purchase Broken Bells

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