Bleachers Strange Desire Album Review
Jack Antonoff has seen it all in his brief but eventful career in the music world and has quickly established himself as a talented musician with tremendous potential.
Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs and generally feeling like an outcast as he watched the cool kids from the safety of the bleachers, Antonoff turned to music. He toiled on the road in a few bands (Steel Train), before teaming with Nate Ruess and Andrew Dost to form fun. back in 2008.
We all know what happened with the ascension of fun. They scaled to the top of the Pop Rock charts, culminating the trip with a successful showing at the Grammy’s, and Antonoff was a huge part of the band’s success. During the journey, Antonoff found himself in a relationship with a movie star girlfriend in Lena Dunham, and toured the world in front of a rabid fanbase. A talented songwriter, he’s written with and for huge pop stars, while honing his reputation as a talented musician and up-and-coming producer/arranger.
While touring across the world with fun., he recorded incessantly for an album he notes “was recorded literally all over the place.” He admits that when he returned to the studio, there was some garbage in those tapes, but quite a bit of interesting stuff, as well. The results of his labors was the eleven song Strange Desires released last week.
My first thought after listening to the album was “BIG.” Big arrangements, big ideas, big feel, maybe too “big”… Antanoff is an unabashed fan of John Hughes movies and their critically integral soundtracks, and there’s no mistaking the influence those soundtracks have had on Strange Desires. For a handful of these opulent songs, it works well, but truthfully, at some point it just became too much.
Think back to the films and the artists on the Hughes’ albums, Flesh For LuLu did not always offer up that lush John Hughes production we heard in “I Go Crazy.” For every “Pretty In Pink,” the Psychedelic Furs had a few “Imitation of Christs.” On Strange Days, there’s just too much John Hughes influence. That’s not to say there isn’t some killer music on the album, as there are a handful of songs that are well worth adding to any playlist.
The first single, “I Wanna Get Better” is pure musical genius. The introspective track is the best song on the album, and will likely be one of the defining songs of 2014. The lyrics reflect on the challenging times experienced growing up, but finish with a clear tone of optimism. The song, which was our website’s Song Of The Week back in may is absolutely addictive.
Throughout the album, you’ll definitely have pleasant musical flashbacks to fun. Vocally, Antonoff is no match for Nate Guess, but his vocals are captivating in their own way, and shine most on the stripped down surf rock offering “Wake Me,” which is just a great song.
A handful of other tracks would have been perfectly suited placed smack dab in the middle of a flick like Some Kind Of Wonderful. Primary among these lush arrangements, which are catchy as hell are “Like A River,” “Roller Coaster” and “Reckless Love,” ambitious songs harkening back to sonic images of Jesus and Mary Chain, OMD and Simple Minds. Listening to the excellent “You’re Still a Mystery,” I felt like I had discovered the sequel to “Melt With You,” that Modern English could never deliver.
There were a few not so pleasant mysteries on the album, as well. The pairings with both Grimes and Yoko Ono (why? why? why?) were weak. I really can’t understand the logic for either being included on the album, and hope to never hear either again.
But, forget those two tracks, because all told, it’s a good album, and one that will translate excellently when Bleachers hits the festival circuit this fall. My recommendation is to listen to the entire album and grab the half-dozen or so that best fit your tastes.
For fans of Antonoff’s other band, check out these 2012 fun. photos from our collection.