BRO­KEN BELLS Bro­ken Bells (Sony)

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

Maybe you’ve heard, but the Shins are in the midst of a heavy ros­ter makeover. The next time we see them, they will not be the Al­bu­querque quar­tet we once knew. In the mean­time, Shins front­man James Mercer teams with pro­ducer Dan­ger Mouse for this side project. Dan­ger Mouse re­cently worked with Beck and the Black Keys, and while he seemed like a sim­ple knob-twid­dler for them, Bro­ken Bells is more like the col­lab­o­ra­tion he has with Cee-Lo Green in Gnarls Barkley. DM pushes Mercer’s voice through a va­ri­ety of fil­ters and paints his con­sid­er­able melodies with com­put­er­ized psychedelia. Some­times it works, as with the dreamy “Your Head Is on Fire” and the lay­ered “Oc­to­ber.” But I’m of­ten un­con­vinced of Dan­ger Mouse’s strengths in this con­text. The disco of “The Ghost In­side,” for ex­am­ple, is con­tent with a tick­ing beat that sim­ply sounds nifty, when boom­ing drums and a strong bass line would make it one of the year’s best jams. Dan­ger Mouse needs an out­sized per­son­al­ity like Green to com­ple­ment his sub­tle funk. (Would Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” work with just about any other singer?) Like­wise, Mercer’s in­tel­li­gent, world-weary song­writ­ing works bet­ter with the me­lan­choly in­stru­men­ta­tion and punchy rhythm sec­tion of the Shins. Here you’ve got an un­der­stated front­man paired with an un­der­stated pro­ducer, and the re­sult, pre­dictably, is an un­re­mark­able al­bum. — Robert Ben­ziker

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