October 5, 2010
Broken Bells: Uber-hip
I may not be the quintessential fedora-wearing hipster with Buddy Holly glasses and a NYC biker-bag slung over one shoulder, but I can pass. At least, I used to be able to pass. Alright, on a good day, someone who didn't know better might mistake me for hip. OK, OK, I'm not hip, but I know it when I see it, to paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes. And I saw it last night at the uber-hip Broken Bells show.
BB is the latest Danger Mouse project, this time teaming up with Shins front-man James Mercer. For those that can't pass hip, Danger Mouse is one of the hottest producers/artists in the biz. In 2004, DM burst on the scene with The Grey Album which was a mash of Jay-Z's The Black Album and The Beatles' The White Album. When EMI tried to restrict its distribution, The Grey Album became an internet sensation. Since then Danger M, with Gnarls Barkley, has been the epitome of the liberal musical intelligentsia that is destroying America. His BB partner-in-crime, James Mercer, is also a darling of the East Coast cultural elite. Together, fuggetaboutit. Rolling Stone hailed BB as "the year's coolest left field pop disc" and Wired described BB as "crazy good stuff." More recently, Broken B came in at #4 in NPR's best music of 2010-so-far listeners' poll. So, with this much hype and provenance, you'd figure BB has got to suck. You'd figure wrong.
Everything about the BBells show was cool. Cool lighting, cool stage, cool songs, cool performance. Only one small problem: The Fox Theater. I have heard complaints about the sound at the Fox before and I am beginning to reluctantly agree that it's a problem. To be fair, I have seen a dozen shows at the Fox and the sound was great at 50% of them, but what is the problem with the other half? Is there any possible excuse for poor sound at a concert in the 21st century? As I tried different vantage points, the sound varied wildly. When I go see a concert, I expect the sound to be better than, or at least equivalent to, my crappy earbuds. Otherwise, what's the point? At times it was like a hearing test for the color blind. That is simply not acceptable.
So, what is MV&R's final answer? Get the CD, see the band, don't go to the Fox.