Broken Bells: Broken Bells

Artist: Broken Bells

Title: Broken Bells
Release date: March 9
Label: Columbia

If you're a supergroup and you don't go for broke from the outset, you've lost me. That's kind of the way I feel about this debut record by Broken Bells, the new collaboration by Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley and James Mercer of The Shins. Obviously, Gnarls Barkley had a mega-hit a couple of years ago, Danger Mouse is one of the top producers in the business, and The Shins were one of the more influential and popular indie bands of the past decade.

So, given the pedigree, Broken Bells, though not bad, is underwhelming.

In fact, halfway through my first listen of the record, I thought to myself: Columbia Records put this out? Is this what major labels have resorted to releasing? This sounds no more like a well-produced indie record. At least the new Gorillaz record -- though maybe not chock-full of singles -- sounds like a big-time production.

Actually, the first song on the disc, "The High Road," has a great minor-key melody, a laid-back beat, and an awesome chorus ("Cause they know, and so I / The high road is hard to find / A detour to your new life / Tell all of your friends goodbye"), but the record never really takes off from there. The chill-out music starts to run together after the fourth song (and the other really good song here), "The Ghost Inside." The problem is that it all flattens out too quickly.

It's not that the music is too downbeat or too moody. Nothing wrong with using a palette of blues and grays in the music. But these two guys sound tired and not entirely convinced their little side project was a great idea.  

Best song: "The High Road"
Rotation: Medium
Deja Vu: Gorillaz (in black and white)
Grade: C+

Wanna hear some of the music I've been listening to this year? Check out the first Nothing Not New podcast.

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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