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Broken Bells - Into the Blue (Album Review)

Tuesday, 11 October 2022 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Shervin Lainez and Nikki Fenix

‘Into the Blue’ is the third album from Broken Bells, the eye-catching duo of artist-producer Danger Mouse and Shins troubadour and bandleader James Mercer. It’s nine tracks of dreamy space rock with shuffling midtempo beats, landing somewhere between Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and Portishead. It demonstrates a high degree of expertise on the part of its creators—the production in particular is excellent—but doesn’t quite set the world alight with its songwriting.

That said, there are some very fine moments. Forgotten Boy is a gorgeous melancholic sidewinder, with a fantastic melody line and a chorus that emerges like a fresh ocean wave. Here, elements complement each other incredibly well, with trip hop beats underpinning spidery guitars and retro synth sounds.

Similarly, We’re Not in Orbit Yet… is a chunky song that blends vibraphone and drawbar organ with distinction. Again, Mercer’s melody writing is excellent, with memorable motifs that dance between diverse chord changes.

But the lyrics do not really pop out. That may be down to the overall sound of the track—it’s a deep blend with lots of reverb and slow, anthemic words—but there is also a sneaking suspicion that the words are quite simply adequate, not attention-grabbing.

A cursory Google of these lyrics doesn't throw up much: “We will sacrifice to touch the sky / And burn the brightest thing / With a match we light the dark of night / to wash it all away.” Again, ‘adequate’ feels like the word here.

Which seems somewhat harsh. ‘Into the Blue’ is a well made album by experienced musicians who know exactly what they are doing. Indeed, on its own terms, it's probably successful: this is breezy dad-rock for the beach house or the holiday drive. But it doesn’t really have much of an X-factor—Pink Floyd or Portishead it ain’t.

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