Broken Bells debut album anything but innovative

Matilda Swartz

Regeneration is usually a thing of starfish and lizards, unless the music industry is involved. Time tells the story of countless, torrid band break-ups and duet demises only to be succeeded by new lead singers, a solo project or a super group. 

The trend continues with “Broken Bells,” the much hyped collaboration of The Shins’ front man James Mercer and DJ and producer Danger Mouse — legally Brian Burton. 

It didn’t take long after The Shins’ May 2009 shake-up —  which swapped keyboardist Marty Crandall and drummer Jesse Sandoval for Ron Lewis and Joe Plummer — for talks of a new project to waft. 

Mercer announced the collaboration last September, and the duo has been slowly releasing ominous tracks and cryptic Internet clues ever since.

On March 9, the self-titled album dropped to the delight of voracious Shins adorers who have waited a painful three years since “Wincing the Night Away” for fresh goods. 

Yet, the 10-track debut, running just over half of a precious hour, may leave a handful of appetites unfulfilled. 


After a couple of uninterrupted listens, “The High Road” proves itself to be the album’s peak point of originality. “Vaporize,” the upbeat, horn-accompanied second track, reveals good intentions led down a path to mere Shins mimicry. 

The remaining eight songs were equally recognizable. “Trap Doors” could have been interchanged with a track off of any of The Dandy Warhols’ past three LPs.  

The middle chunk of “Broken Bells” swings like a metronome between likable electronic moments and retro undertones, but nothing that MGMT or Super Furry Animals haven’t delivered first.

 Various intros and outros throughout the album do more than hint at a Beatles influence. 

This phenomenon is ubiquitous in contemporary music and almost expected from Burton, who rose to fame with his 2004 mash-up of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” and The Beatles’ “The White Album” — appropriately dubbed “The GreyAlbum.”