Certain things just don't mix: oil and water, laxatives and sleeping pills, indie rock and electronica. The latter is apparent on the debut album from Broken Bells, which features James Mercer, front man for indie heavyweights the Shins, and musician-producer Danger Mouse.
The two excel at what they do -- Mercer at blending emotive lyrics, pristine vocals, and melodious guitar riffs, while Danger Mouse is a wiz at mashing hip-hop beats and R&B. Together, however, the two have made a gutless collection in which Mercer's voice and guitar provide the only moving parts. Most of the ten songs are filled with cheap keys, electronic beats, non-existent bass, and sound effects.
"The High Road" kicks the album off. Mercer's voice and full acoustic strums are the substance here. The electronic handclap drumbeat and keyboard effects add nothing. The end result is a paper-thin, pop 40 tune.
Despite the gimmickry, Broken Bells holds a few standout tracks -- “Vaporize,” “The Ghost Inside,” “October” -- but in the end, even they lack staying power.
"Was it all for show?" Mercer wonders on "The Ghost Inside." Yes, James, that seems to be the case.
- Album title: Broken Bells (2010)
- Artist: Broken Bells
- Label: Columbia Records
- Songs: (1) The High Road (2) Vaporize (3) Your Head Is on Fire (4) The
- Ghost Inside (5) Sailing To Nowhere (6) Trap Doors (7) Citizen (8)
- October (9)Mongrel Heart (10)The Mail and Misery