There's little doubt that Brian Burton's (aka Danger Mouse) expansive and epic resume has essentially established him as the most important producer of the past decade (Gnarls Barkley, Beck, Gorillaz, The Black Keys). Thus, there's something very reassuring about his quick return to making more music with James Mercer in Broken Bells. I suppose the comfort comes in knowing that his prolific works aren't just ways of him spreading his seed across our current musical landscape, but reassurance that he really is searching for the right grooves to hold and expand with. As usual with Danger, when Broken Bells was initially set for release last year, the mash-up seemed odd on paper. Yet he was able to draw a sinister side out of a then post-Shins Mercer, and their dark, melodic groove-pop clicked in a more natural fashion than any other prior Danger Mouse project had. Which yes, is a huge statement to live up to. But in our present era of genre conglomerates and categorical toppling, there's perhaps no better testament to the potentiality of modern song than the indie, soul-hop these two have fused together.
"Meyrin Fields" ruptures in sounding confident and rather vengeful, like you're running out of time on some expansive version of Galaga. Instantly things sound way bigger and far more filled out than anything on the eponymous debut -- perhaps a nod to the realization that they needed a full band to play songs live off the first album anyway. The woven layering of synths and guitar actually feel so ideally dense that they make the first LP feel unfinished in retrospect. "Windows" could easily go near the top of the order in Danger Mouse's greatest hits. Mercer's higher ranged voice sounds perfect against the heavy low-range production of Danger -- it's both melty and badass, a two-for usually only attributed to Wu-Tang or the Grateful Dead.
"An Easy Life" sounds like an instrumental version of the Fine Young Cannibals' hit "Good Thing" and would be forgettable if intentionally kitschy key-lines didn't weasel their way into your subconscious. "Heartless Empire" starts out like a Casio fill, and then positively explodes in. The tune is a huge quasi-mod drifter -- Mercer's lofting vocals and Danger's rolling drum lines make it feel like Pink Floyd got back together and tried a modern take on one of the spacier Barrett-era tracks. Some reports say there's still another full length album on the way, while others say this was it. Either way, let's hope The Mouse takes more of an extended breather from Cee-Lo's pretentious yammering, and continues to focus on making music that means something to people.