This is the unlikely collaboration of the Shins frontman James Mercer and electronic producer Danger Mouse. It’s a quality little offering that breaks Mercer out of his comfort zone with different styles, song structures and instrumentation. It’s a strange juxtaposition, but ultimately it works with a quirkiness and grace all of its own.
It’s not quite up there with the Postal Service album, but it’s a brave move from Mercer to attempt something different when he is so comfortable within his Shins persona. It’s doubtful that Mark Oliver Everett, Morrissey or Bob Mould would even think of electronic collaborations, although maybe that’s harsh on Everett with his MC Honky project. Who the hell would you pair up with Morrissey though? Trentmoller would do it for me, but I doubt Mozzer would agree.
The pick of the tracks are the meandering ‘The High Road’, the Shins-like plodding of ‘Vaporize’ and the high pitched Shins meets the Scissor Sisters stomp of ‘The Ghost Inside’. Best by a long way however, is the stylish electronic pulsing anthem of ‘Mongrel Heart’ with a half time homage to Ennio Morricone. Difficult to imagine, but a work of genius.
If you like the Shins you’ll probably like Broken Bells. If you don’t like the Shins this won’t change your mind, but it probably has more chance than Mercer’s more standard offerings. Well worth a spin if you’re ambivalent.