By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb
Special to The Seattle Times
I first heard “Holding on for Life,” the primary single from Broken Bells’ second album, on KEXP during my lunch break. My boss listened for thirty seconds, declared that it sounded “like the goddam Bee Gees” and changed the station.
He wasn’t wrong. The LP might be called “After the Disco” but it’s deeply rooted in the pop and soul sounds of the late 70s and early 80s. Producer DJ Danger Mouse took the same approach that earned Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” a fistful of Grammys: find a classic pop sound and freshen it up.
This strategy makes “After the Disco” even more accessible than the duo’s first release. Sometimes, it’s so syrupy sweet that singer James Mercer’s lyrics sound like Neil Young dubbed his vocals over a Fine Young Cannibals album.
Danger Mouse’s sprightly, uptempo style is instantly recognizable. The LP’s weaker tracks, such as “Medicine,” follow that tried and true recipe to the bitter end. The better ones, like the sassy finger snapper “Control,” have subtle but essential deviations. An uncharacteristically fuzzy synth line here, a refreshingly laid back tempo there — these little changes make “After the Disco” a solid, if not superior, second release.