Broken Bells is the new project of two maverick pop talents, restless musical spirits James Mercer and Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton. Burton's varied enterprises – from Gnarls Barkley to Gorillaz – are well-documented; while no sooner had Mercer's band The Shins finally achieved success with 2007's Wincing The Night Away than the songwriter sought out new challenges.
His gnomic lyrics, and gift for plucking enigmatic new melodies from familiar old chords, have found a safe new home with Burton, whose dance/electro leanings have been largely set aside here in favour of a proper "band" sound featuring his own drums and keyboards alongside Mercer's voice and guitar. The duo's shared affinity for baroque pop sounds, however, seeps into most tracks through strategies such as the mariachi trumpet break in "Mongrel Heart", the Beach Boy-ish vocal arrangement and watery synth of "Your Head Is On Fire", and the dobro and oriental-sounding strings of "The Mall & Misery". Mercer's lyrics, meanwhile, tackle such themes as inspiration, the "trap doors to endless wisdom", the tragedy of self-denial in giving up "the ghost inside", and the importance of making a mark on the world "before we start to vaporise" – all effectively different facets of the same desire to satisfy the creative imperatives.
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