Everything that Danger Mouse does turns to gold. First, it was the brilliant The Grey Album which combined Jay-Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ The White Album. Then it was the (supposed to be one-off) collaboration with Cee-Lo, maybe you’ve heard of them, Gnarls Barkley. They only made one of the greatest songs of all time, “Crazy.” Now he is collaborating with singer/songwriter James Mercer to form the funky-yet-acoustic Broken Bells. Their self-titled debut is has the Danger Mouse patent, but James Mercer (of The Shins) doesn’t get shoved into the background. “The Ghost Inside” has a beat that I could see in a club or a roller skating rink. Complete with hand claps, the duo combine Burton’s beats with Mercer’s mellow vocals to make a track that is an instant favorite of mine. They follow that up with “Sailing to Nowhere,” where Burton (Mouse?) take melancholy beats and cymbals and underscore Mercer’s somber vocals. “Trap Doors” is the song that sounds the most like The Shins, but actually leans more toward a Guster sound.
Broken Bells wants to be known as a legit band and not a one-off side project. Well, Gnarls Barkley was supposed to be one-off and now they are famous world-wide. Broken Bells will continue to go on because the music is that good and it will resonate with the indie snobs, but there is nothing here that is like “Crazy.” Because of that, Broken Bells will never be as wildly popular as Gnarls Barkley.