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Bleachers - Strange Desire Album Cover

Bleachers - Strange Desire

Reviewed by
8.8
BleachersStrange Desire
Record Label: RCA Records
Release Date: July 22, 2014
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Jack Antonoff is an immensely interesting person (starting this off with my patented, one-of-a-kind insights!). A recent Vulture article went in-depth into the multi-instrumentalist’s past, which moreso than many artists making pop music these days, is where Antonoff draws the bulk of his inspiration. And when I say “obsessed with the past,” I am referring to both Antonoff’s previous life experiences, and also the music of yesteryear. Basically, regardless of which song you’re referencing, or what memory you’re experiencing again, Strange Desire lands the listener in one place: The 80s.

From Antonoff’s deep, velvety smooth Smiths-ian vocals, to the skittering synths and thankfully simplistic lyrical motifs, emotional stability is found through musical bombast. Because here, even the slower, quieter songs like “Wake Me” or the Grimes-featuring “Take Me Away” seem destined as set-closers, with full-on frontman emoting and a ridiculous light show to match. The beauty of a project like Bleachers, and also the difficulty, is that the whole thing could easily become a parody of itself, a half-hearted, basic-cable movie that misinterprets the Reagan Era’s weirdness for a lack of depth. But Strange Desire avoids all that with a fist-pumping builder like “Like A River Runs,” and the lines, “And if you see me in the darkness / I hope you know I’m not alone / I carry you with every breath I take.” It’s over-the-top in the best way, like a soundtrack for a coming-of-age movie melding 80s charm with 2000s self-assuredness.

Perhaps the only misstep, and I may be alone in this, is the Yoko Ono-featuring “Im Ready To Move On / Wild Heart Reprise.” The old bag warbling over a highly-synthesized, almost mechanical beat is akin to listening to a robot cat choke on a real cat’s hairball. It just sounds bad. But other than that, we get surefire hits like opener “Wild Heart” and its echoed, standing-in-the-spotlight vocal performance from Antonoff and “Rollercoaster,” which has the groove and shimmy-shake you feel after every great personal triumph. Plus, the chorus is only second in infectiousness to the ubiquitous “I Wanna Get Better.”

Which, sigh, “I Wanna Get Better.” If you hadn’t been everywhere, on everyone’s lips, you could have been the ultimate mid-album cut. But now I just skip you. Which isn’t your fault, and it can’t be helped (so why are we talking about it?). Fair. But I think an interesting discussion in this age of music, and definitely in the age Strange Desire wishes it was created, is when a single permeates pop culture so completely. We’re all looking for those songs that make our long night drives or rides to the beach more meaningful, more memorable. But is it ok to do that at the expense of the full-album experience? Who knows, just food for thought. And if you’ve somehow never heard “I Wanna Get Better,” I’m truly excited for what you’re about to experience. It’s the best single of the year. Easy.

What Antonoff has accomplished with Bleachers that he hasn’t yet with fun. or never did with Steel Train is create an album that inspires as much as it transports. It’s so sure and precise in its vision that it almost feels like a concept album without a concept. Listening to the Styx-ish synths on “Shadow” or the electro-acoustic montage that is “Reckless Love” makes me want to throw out my iPhone for a Walkman. But more importantly, it makes me want to relive this moment in time over and over again.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 34
01:16 PM on 07/25/14
#2
Jlee@thedisco
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good review, I enjoyed this album and had similar thoughts to everything you wrote.


but I'd be lying if i said I didn't miss Steel Train whilst listening to this
09:27 AM on 07/26/14
#3
SirDaveyBoy
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I'm undoubtedly feeling the 80s vibe. I immediately got a Modern English feel from "Wild Heart," and "Rollercoaster" might be the catchiest song of the year so far. I like where you took us in this review. Good read.
07:10 PM on 07/27/14
#4
Zac Djamoos
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good review, blake, and great album.
09:16 PM on 07/27/14
#5
Vance Mook
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Great review Blake, I'm sitting down for my first full listen as I type this hehe
07:14 AM on 07/28/14
#6
rbf737
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Why do all of the scores get the same number at 8.75? I know most people and reviewers see the scores as being largely pointless but whenever I read a review each different aspect of the recording and production seems to be the exact same number.

Anyway I've been spinning this in my car for the past couple of weeks; it's all right but not a lot of replayability IMO. I always skip I Wanna Get Better too, for whatever reason I listened to it maybe a dozen times when I first heard it and loved it, then I quickly got worn out on it and can't listen to it.

A lot of the songs (admittedly my favorites like Rollercoaster, Shadow, and River) all sound pretty similar and the guest tracks don't do anything for me so I'm with you on that.

All that said, it's enjoyable stuff and I'll be seeing them in a couple of months so hopefully they put on a good show.

People should check out his interview on Maron's WTF if they haven't; he talks candidly about some personal things which give a great insight into where he's coming from lyrically on this and many of his records.
07:29 AM on 07/28/14
#7
cowlord
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Spot on about the Yoko song haha
07:30 AM on 07/28/14
#8
Blake Solomon
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Why do all of the scores get the same number at 8.75? I know most people and reviewers see the scores as being largely pointless but whenever I read a review each different aspect of the recording and production seems to be the exact same number.

Anyway I've been spinning this in my car for the past couple of weeks; it's all right but not a lot of replayability IMO. I always skip I Wanna Get Better too, for whatever reason I listened to it maybe a dozen times when I first heard it and loved it, then I quickly got worn out on it and can't listen to it.

A lot of the songs (admittedly my favorites like Rollercoaster, Shadow, and River) all sound pretty similar and the guest tracks don't do anything for me so I'm with you on that.

All that said, it's enjoyable stuff and I'll be seeing them in a couple of months so hopefully they put on a good show.

People should check out his interview on Maron's WTF if they haven't; he talks candidly about some personal things which give a great insight into where he's coming from lyrically on this and many of his records.
we have done away with that rating system (broken down by lyrics, songwriting, etc)

but it's still there on the site until the redesign is completed. so don't worry about that.

we just fill that part out so that when you're on the reviews page it doesn't look like i gave this a -3% or whatever it comes out to if you leave it blank.
07:31 AM on 07/28/14
#9
Blake Solomon
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Spot on about the Yoko song haha
what the fuck is her appeal? horrible.
07:48 AM on 07/28/14
Timmerton120
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Nice review, bud. Pretty much agree with everything you said.
07:51 AM on 07/28/14
derekjd
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I just removed the Yoko song and it got much better.
Love the album. It really is a mood album, where it transports you to an emotional state. I also wish that I Want to Get Better was more famous -- that could have been the summer song.
08:18 AM on 07/28/14
Blake Solomon
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I just removed the Yoko song and it got much better.
Love the album. It really is a mood album, where it transports you to an emotional state. I also wish that I Want to Get Better was more famous -- that could have been the summer song.
but the second half of it is good. so i just skip to there. which is still annoying.
08:25 AM on 07/28/14
derekjd
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but the second half of it is good. so i just skip to there. which is still annoying.
Right. I'd be really interested to hear why Jack wanted her to be on there.
09:06 AM on 07/28/14
Niko John
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"went in-depth into the multi-instrumentalist’s past, which more than many artists making pop music these days..."

I think there is a word missing here, it doesn't sound right.
09:10 AM on 07/28/14
bertbro
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I like this album, but i just feel like a majority of the songs are't even close to the caliber of the singles.

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