Review of Broken Bells debut album released through Columbia.
Penfold's now not so secret agent partner in the fight against crime ditches his rodent moniker to team up with James Mercer of The Shins to become Broken Bells. Out of the City Of Angels on the Columbia label and set to enthral the world, the man also known as Dangermouse takes time off from Gnarls Barkley, as well as his other numerous collaborative engagements, to team up with the lead vocalist and guitarist he met back stage some 6 years ago at the Roskilde Danish Festival.
Created covertly, and using real instruments, at Brian Burton's LA studios, Broken Bells finally broke out of the closet to reveal their intentions on 29th September 2009. BB says it's definitely a band, not a one off art project, like the one with Sparklehorse and David Lynch, "We just didn't get anybody else in but ourselves." Since the announcement the anticipation, expectation and general media buzz has been building nicely to create a genuine, almost tangible, excitement for fans of their work.
The eponymous album is described by Brian as "Melodic, but experimental too." A very brief but fair appraisal that teases you in but doesn't really tell you anything. Creatively the pair have obviously been blessed and know just how to create a sound, write a decent tune, use any, and all, references at their disposal and bring it all together in a finely polished slickly produced package. Take The High Road, sorry my mistake, 'The High Road', the recent U.S. I-Tunes Single Of The Week, sets the ball rolling to usher in the psychedelically flavoured fayre. The opener starts off a little Athlete but quickly morphs into a fine fusion of electro pop meets prog rock that then switches again in the last third to an anthemic sing-along, a la Embrace. If there is track the defines the feel of the album then 'Your Head Is On Fire' is probably it. Melding some chilled out electro beats to a sixties harmonised sensibility reminiscent of the Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' is where Broken Bells appear to be coming from. Elsewhere 'The Ghost Inside' starts off with a close resemblance to the Santigold track 'L.E.S. Artistes' and trips along with a very fine hook. (The whole album is full of irresistibly catchy loops). 'Trap Doors' harps back to an age when Julian Cope occupied the charts with quirky and fabulous spaced out pop just like this. In 'Citizen', and to a lesser degree throughout, Broken Bells manage to combine the best parts of Air with a suopcon of Eels and, more than once, a pinch of the All Seeing Eye. Penultimately the echo of The Stranglers 'European Female' coupled with an Inspiral Carpets organ piece on 'Mongrel Heart'. Fabulous, non?
Broken Bells are already on the decks of some of our more respected DJ's. Radcliffe & Maconie, Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq can all be found championing the bands cause. The latest collaboration for the multi-instrumentalist/producer whose notable credits have to date included luminaries such as Beck and The Gorillaz seems destined for success. The signature sound, if he has just one, does envelope the album and his treatments do bleed through from previous work, most notably for me the Shortwave Set album, 'Replica Sun Machine'. That said this is no bad thing, and, if you're a fan of the mouses work you'll want to hear his traits. On the Broken Bells you will be neither disappointed nor disillusioned. On the back of this extremely accomplished debut 2010 is set to be a very busy year. SXSW awaits.....