Bleachers is a perfect example of what Jack Antonoff, partial operator of power, majestic bands like Steel Train and Fun., is capable of on his own. His newest musical project includes displays of extreme creativity and passion, while showcasing just how experimental original Antonoff material can get. The band’s newest, full-length, Strange Desire, is another untouchable album for Antonoff, but an electric experience for the rest of us.
My first encounter with Bleachers is the single, “I Wanna Get Better”, which features some personal confessions and insight into a sensitive topic. The upbeat tone relates to the general disposition of the chorus, giving the lines, “Hey! I wanna get better!”, a stronger presence. The song is piano, with electronic distortion as its counterpart, but includes thirty seconds of hard guitar towards the end. The song wanes into this power ballad after the lines, “she said to get better/so I put a bullet where I shoulda put a helmet/and I crash my car cause I wanna get carried away”, drive home the song’s true intention. The constant pattern of electricity through piano keys gives “I Wanna Get Better” life.
I was also really impressed with “Rollarcoaster”, which includes pleasing, and familiar, elements from Antonoff’s other, musical projects. The introduction of the song is a slight melody that grows into something simplistic. The chorus, “so come a little closer/there was something I could tell ya/you were such a rollercoaster/and a killer queen you are”, resembles an 80’s love ballad, with key-tars, synth, and electronic drums. Antonoff gets romantic in “Rollarcoaster”.
“Wake Me” is slower. In the beginning, the song remains constant throughout, giving more dedication to the lyrical impact. Eventually, though, the song opens into a field of noise, with more emphasis on the strong guitar that eventually folds back into the slower pace that accompanies the lyrics, ” I can’t believe I captured your heart”. The song is an ambition declaration of love without the overuse of distortion. “You’re Still a Mystery” is another declaration, but with higher energy. Again, I’m reminded of 80’s power ballads, almost identical to the cheesy ones, because the song includes an electronic drum kit, deep bass, and a melody that follows a straight forward pattern. Antonoff’s voice plays off the music, however, creating tonal dips and peaks through the lyrics, “Then I can find a way to move inside of your mystery/whoa oh oh/maybe I don’t need to understand/why your love is such a mystery”.
“I’m Ready to Move On/Wild Heart Reprise” took some time to get used to. The song, which features the legendary Yoko Ono, is a combination of lyrical poetry, new wave, and classical. The song is put together in parts, starting with someone’s speech repeated and twisted, but eventually settles on Yoko’s voice and a fast piano. Her lines, “slow is falling all the time/I’m ready/I’m ready/I’m ready to move on” falls away to Antonoff’s robot impression, and his voice is layered and echoed. But, quickly enough Antonoff is singing about the power of commitment, with an ode to another track, “Wild Heart”, thrown in, completing the idea of this mysterious love he wants to love. The song is really a journey with a message of self realization.
Recently, I’ve had to give most albums a second chance, listening again and again to see if something eventually sticks. Not with Bleachers. I was impressed from the very beginning of Strange Desire, giving Antonoff my full attention, and he repaid me with this beautiful album. The passion thrown into something so different is admirable. I’m not sure how he does it, but Antonoff can never quit.