Album Review: Bleachers - 'Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night'
This Sept. will mark 10 years since fun.’s number-one single, “We Are Young” was released. Since the band released its most recent album, “Some Nights,” in 2012, its background vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jack Antonoff has been busy winning Grammys for his production work with Lana Del Rey, St. Vincent and Taylor Swift.
In 2014, Antonoff became the founding (and sole) member of Bleachers, then a side project to fun. The same year, he released his debut album “Strange Desire,” which featured the excellent lead single, “I Wanna Get Better.” (His old band would go on hiatus a year later.) The song was different from fun.’s radio-friendly pop/rock sound and instead featured elements of pop, alternative and new wave, and it put Antonoff out front as a lead singer, wrapped in a blanket of appropriately retro-yet-contemporary vocal effects.
Following a sophomore album, “Gone Now,” which didn’t make quite the same noise as the first, commercially, Bleachers are back with “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night.”
The album’s most publicized track to date is the Bruce Springsteen collaboration, “China Town.” While the synths are not foreign to Springsteen’s MTV era, what made The Boss’s more poppy ’80s offerings acceptable into his rock and roll canon were their incredible hooks. While the imagery of “China Town” is pleasant and befitting of the guest vocalist, it doesn’t have that big chorus that the song feels like it’s building toward. That said, the production by Antonoff and Patrik Berger nearly makes up for it.
Another collaborator, Lana Del Rey is credited for two songs on the album, adding guest vocals to “Secret Life” and co-writing “Don’t Go Dark” with Antonoff. The latter song’s instrumental track is one the E Street Band would have been proud to have performed, and the song is a delightful Springsteen homage that doesn’t feel derivative. “Dark” seamlessly bridges the divide between the classic and the current, especially lyrically: “‘Cause you run run run/Run with the devil/Then you cry on my shoulder like I’m forever.” The first two lines sound like they could have been written by the Boss himself; the last sounds like a lyric sung by one of the pop artists Antonoff produces.
During the solid “How Dare You Want More,” Antonoff, without restraint, emotes the title lyric in a song that sounds like a mix of the Kinks’ “A Well Respected Man” and Matt Nathanson’s 2013 song “Kinks Shirt.”
“Stop Making This Hard” is a memorable track with its retro keys, and like “How Dare You Want More,” it makes good use of its horn section. It’s a pop song that seems to both belong to the past and the present, but it might not perfectly fit either; it’s a pop song, but an interesting one. The track is an example of Bleachers’ calling card.
Overall, I think this is an enjoyable album, but what concerns me is that it will likely become known too simplistically as the Bleachers record that has the Springsteen collaboration. And as much as I like Springsteen, I think it would be a disservice to not dig a little deeper. Ironically, the song that may have the appeal to Springsteen fans is one he’s not even on.
While I don’t think it has a song as good as “I Wanna Get Better” or “Rollercoaster” from his debut, experiencing Antonoff’s noticeable evolution as a frontman, alone, makes “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” worth your time.