REVIEW: Meet the many personalities of Bleachers' Strange Desires
After being clobbered by the anthemic style in the Bleachers single, "I Wanna Get Better," we expected nothing short of awesomeness from Strange Desires. What the man behind the Bleachers moniker, Jack Antonoff, delivered was schizophrenic electro-pop that we don't hate entirely but aren't in love with either.
At first listen, nearly all of Strange Desires is acceptable. Fun even. Songs like his lead single and "Wake Me Up" blend well together and are likable and easy to bop around to which, of course, we love. Who wouldn't? But that's about where the congruent sounds end.
To say Strange Desires lacks something to pull all the songs together wouldn't be entirely accurate. As a matter of fact, thematically, the songs are all fairly similar. High school must have been a real b**** for Antonoff. Strange Desires appears to be one expensive endeavor to share his issues and feelings from that time. And we get it... as nerdy girls, we even appreciate it.
Five songs into the album, though, and we begin to feel a little like we're continually reliving the first half of Sixteen Candles without ever getting to the perfect kiss. While the story is the same, the way it's told changes with each song. There's an overly auto-tuned version here, a lowered-voice "Is that Matt Berninger?"-narrated retelling there and a drop somewhere else. Antonoff may have been trying to show off range or his eclectic musical interests. Instead, it comes off as pandering for as many listeners as possible. If this were Sixteen Candles, first everyone would forget our birthday in black and white, and then everyone would ignore it in French.
To be fair, we should also point out that nearly in all cases there is a hopelessly optimistic spin on things. Life is awful. But it will get better. Antonoff has mentioned that John Hughes is a bit of an inspiration, hence the Sixteen Candles reference. And we feel it. Just like with the massive singles released by his other band, fun., Bleachers shares a "this too shall pass" attitude. You can't hate that kind of belief in life, especially during America's current emotional climate. That's why fun. is so insanely popular and why Antonoff channeled that same vibe for Strange Desires. (And why "I Wanna Get Better" is still our favorite track.) Sadly, the sound of the record is just too disjointed for it to work as well as it could have.
Hardly anything about Strange Desires is worthy of hate. Antonoff made sure to engineer a record with a few things for everyone, and we're certain it will cater to the masses just fine. We'll even unabashedly admit that many of its songs will make their way onto our summer beach playlists. Honestly, the only true abomination comes from the mellow and whining Yoko Ono-assisted "I'm Ready to Move On." And that channeling of The National on "You're Still a Mystery" is freaking awesome. We truly love it... because we love The National. It's not that Strange Desires is a bad album; we're just unsure what Antonoff wants from the Bleachers. Hopefully, he can figure it out for a second record.