Broken Bells - Broken Bells

2010-04-19 15:17
Broken Bells
A short (barely 37 minutes), bitter-sweet, head-spinning illicit affair between two brilliant misfits, the album sees indie-hip-hop producer extraordinaire, Danger Mouse and James Mercer, the sublimely melodic introverted singer-songwriter of the Shins, teaming up to engage with and depart from canonical notions of pop, as they demonstrate that beauty cannot be understood apart from ugliness.

As can be expected Danger Mouse plays the badass, ugly urban rat, building on his reputation as the inspired, irreverent, mad genius behind Gnarls Barkley, he peppers Mercer's blissful pastoral pop songs with freaky 22nd century synths, slo-mo kick drums, mean, melancholy bass lines and devilish Day-Glo symphonics.

Highlighting how ideas of beauty are manifest and how they mutate, travel, and combine across time and distance, the album is a genre-bending (and blending) time machine. There are moments of Burt Bacharach's Tin Pan Alley pop delight ("Vaporize"), U2-flavoured chamber pop yearns ("October"), menacing Syd Barrett meets Beach Boys sized space waltzes ("Your Head Is on Fire"), snappy Springsteen style Americana ("The Mall & the Misery") and even some haunting, blurry Gorillaz in the mist ("The Ghost Inside").

Taken together these tunes retune our ears to the limits and possibilities of beauty, finding lightness in brooding melancholy, bliss in bitter mundanity and faith in fear. As the disembodied voice on "Citizen" sings: "This is a day without a trace of reason… the innocent are bound to the damned."

Beautiful-ugly is hard to behold. It's striking, odd, contorted, misunderstood and unique. It's Dominican supermodel Omahyra Mota, Sudanese fashion goddess Alek Wek and actress-come-chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg. It's also Broken Bells.

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