Published Jan 28, 2014Its name suggests a post party come-down but Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) and James Mercer's second album as Broken Bells opens with anything but. "Perfect World" is the closest thing either artist has come to crafting a full-blown dance track. Mercer croons overtop of a pulsing groove and syncopated keyboard riff, Burton's immaculate production keeping each instrument clean and separated. Yet for all its bluster, "Perfect World" is emblematic of the problems that persist across After The Disco's 11 tracks.
Broken Bells is supposed to be a collaboration between the two, but there's a disconnect here. Many of Mercer's contributions feel tacked on, an addendum to Burton's intricate instrumentals. "The Angel and the Fool" in particular sounds like a leftover from Burton's work with Daniele Luppi, while indie-dance numbers like "Perfect World" and the title track lack the swing or emotional uplift to justify their too-long runtimes. Far more effective are slow and sparse songs like lead single "Holding on for Life" which showcase Mercer's soulful vocals.
Mercer and Burton are talented musicians who are capable of producing better work, both on their own and together. Listeners expect big things from them. Instead After the Disco is a stiff, flat record. It may yet succeed as a soundtrack for lifestyle products and rom-coms, but sadly, it adds nothing to the musical conversation. (Columbia)