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Broken Bells – Broken Bells

"Broken Bells"

Broken Bells – Broken Bells
08 March 2010, 10:00 Written by Euan Mackay
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Finally! Finally! Finally! After a torturous six months of drip feeding coded messages and unadulterated hype, the debut release from Broken Bells has arrived. Broken Bells are, of course, the chalk and cheese collaboration of The Shins' James Mercer and knob twiddler extraordinaire Danger Mouse.This is a ''band' that was always going to go one way or the other. There was never likely to be any middle of the road dross coming from this partnership. Having two talened individuals such as these locking themselves in a studio together with their experimental hats on, the outputs were always going to be utter drivel or absolute genius.Kicking off proceedings with 'The High Road', the lead single for the record, things start on a positive note. You get a good feel of how the record is going to go. It's slick, smooth sounding and perfectly endearing. Though there's a lot more going on under the surface than is perhaps apparent on first spin. Mercer's vocals are unmistakable and as alluring as ever, but there's something a little more full-sounding to this than many of his previous efforts. The depth comes in the form of the subtle beats and bleeps supplied by the hands of his partner in crime. It's rounded off with a chorus that's catchy enough to win over even the most sceptical.'Your Head is On Fire' has some super-sweet harmonies that owe more than a tip of the aforementioned experimental hat to the Beach Boys' best bits before the track moves subtly into the best bits of Mercer's previous work. There are the obligatory overlaid electro beats, but really it's the sound of strings that really makes this tune. They wash over you in waves. Providing a perfectly soothing and mellow feel (I don't want to call it a chill-out vibe, but it's not for off that, if a little less cliched). This has the soundtrack of a summer comedown nailed.If, there were any lingering concerns that Broken Bells was just The Shins with some (Broken) bells on, then Ghost Inside, The should kill these off stone dead. This is one of the clear highlights of this record and one where Danger Mouse leads the show. Mercer's vocal begins almost unrecognisable, transformed into a digital falsetto and is accompanied throughout by yet more trademark 'Mouse loops and hooks.Then there's 'Sailing to Nowhere' where again there is more than a hint of the 'Mouse at work. This time his stamp comes in the shape of the various samples that float about in the background adding a little extra to the track. The string-laden orchestral outro gives an almost epic Hollywood ending to the song.'Mongrel Heart' sees the band take on a more electro-pop/rock sound, but panic not, this is no pastiche 80s-esque nonsense. It comprises a fuzzy bass riff which really drives the track along. It builds to a crescendo halfway through, where we are bizzarely led into a sombre, scratchy flamenco interlude before the bass returns to breath life back into song. It sounds ridiculous written down, but give it a try. It works a lot better on the ears.All in all this is a pretty excellent record that shows strength in its depth throughout. It's one of those few and far between albums that works as an out and out album. In an industry leaning increasingly towards the singles market it is quite refreshing to have something that works so well as a complete package. These Broken Bells don't sound so broken to me.RECOMMENDED
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