Broken Bells: After the Disco

Music Reviews Broken Bells
Broken Bells: After the Disco

It’s Friday night. You and your friends roll up on the club. It has no sign—no flashing marquee to beckon you inside. It doesn’t need one—you know where it is, and even if you didn’t, the line forming outside the front door would’ve tipped you off anyway.

After what seems like an eternity, you’re almost to the front. Three girls in heels and short skirts stumble out like they just stepped off the back page of an alt-weekly American Apparel ad and disappear down the street as a towering, tatted-up bouncer waves you over and checks your IDs. Finally, you enter the building through an open garage-bay door. Down a ramp you go into the darkness, the rusted pipes above your head dripping god-knows-what on you as you saunter on, unfazed, the music slowly swelling as if the DJ is riding the fader just for you.

At the bottom, out of the black, a soft crimson glow materializes, seeping across your cloudy field of vision, the subterranean bar lit red from underneath. It’s packed all the way around, everyone clamoring for cocktails so they’re good and loose for the dancefloor, which is already swollen to bursting on the other side of the room. The strobes are flashing, taking tiny freeze frames of the crowd, which by this drunken hour is one giant multi-limbed beast, expanding and contracting frantically and in unison, locked in rhythm with the dark skittering heartbeat of the dude you’re about to see railing long, thin lines of coke off the top of a grimy band-sticker-slathered urinal in the gleaming blacklight of the men’s room.

The soundtrack to this weekly ritual mayhem? Broken Bells’ After the Disco. Which is an odd title for this set. Aside from the trio of come-down songs sprinkled throughout, this album is the disco. More than a decade in the wake of The Grey Album and Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere, and just as long since The Shins changed your life with Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, Brian Burton (aka DangerMouse) still inherently knows how to make us shake our ass, and James Mercer how to snare our unsuspecting eardrums on one shiny hook after another. This second Broken Bells album is going to be the Random Access Memories of 2014. Only it’s a way better record, brimming with energy, urgency and something Daft Punk’s pop breakthrough is missing: an appropriately dirty sonic edge and—if you can collect your thoughts amidst all the booming bass and squint your eyes just right past the blinding DJ lights—some damn fine songs.

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