Review: Bleachers (Jack Antonoff) Delivers on ‘Strange Desire’

Bleachers, Strange Desire © RCA
Bleachers • Strange Desire • RCA • US Release Date: July 15, 2014 

“I didn’t know I was lonely, ‘til I saw your face.” With alt-pop band Fun. working on a new material, member Jack Antonoff releases his side project, Bleachers.  Where Nate Ruess serves as the front man of Fun., Antonoff handles those duties in Bleachers.  Throughout the course of Bleachers’ debut, Strange Desire, Antonoff does a fine job with vocal duties, as well as separating himself artistically from Fun.  Overall, Strange Desire ends up being quite the captivating affair.

“Wild Heart” opens Strange Desire with sunny, optimistic production. The vocal production is unique, helping to shape the distinctiveness of this track.  Adventurous, “Wild Heart” grows epically, aiming to recreate and build about the 80s rock sound and depth.  As a first statement by Bleachers, it is a grandiose and exceptional one. The energy and consistency continues on the succinct “Rollercoaster,” where the guitars shine in particular.

“Shadow” contrasts sound from the opening duo, but continues to cling onto the 80s styling.  A standout, Antonoff continues to radiate with positivity, specifically on the high-flying chorus: “If you’re feeling small / I’ll love your shadow…” The chorus serves as a response to lyrics such as “Some girls they really just wanna hurt you” and “…some boys that laugh when they break your heart…”

Single “I Wanna Get Better” is the cream of the crop – the elite of the elite.  Production continues to be a strong suit of Strange Desire, exemplified at its best on “I Wanna Get Better.” Among highlights includes grand songwriting and an incredible, guitar solo – full throttle 80s, baby! Hey, “That’s why I’m standing on the overpass screaming at myself, ‘Hey I wanna get better.’”

The Killers, Sting and The Police would eat up “Wake Me,” with its subtle, driving guitar sound.  The backing vocals featured here accentuate the smooth vibe.  The verses in particular maintain a sense of restraint.  At less than three minutes, the length is just right. “Reckless Love” proceeds with its beautiful synths and big sounds.  It lacks the elitism of the best, but still ends up being worthwhile.  Similarly, “Take Me Away,” although brief, sounds interesting without being a top-notch moment necessarily.

If “Reckless Love” and “Take Me Away” leave something to be desired, “Like A River Runs” restores order and momentum, led by its rhythmic, driving guitars.  The vocal production is a definite virtue as well, not to mention the slick overall production and additionally the solid songwriting.  “When I fall asleep I can see your face / what I lost in you I will not replace / and I could run away, I could let them down / but I will remember your light.”

Following “Like A River,” the final three cuts are good, if not necessarily great. “You’re Still A Mystery” flexes in all of its 80s glory, though doesn’t distinguish itself from earlier cuts positioned in a similar vein.  “I’m Ready to Move On / Wild Heart Reprise” is both experimental and interesting, if a bit nebulous as well.  The reprisal of “Wild Heart” adds some additional ‘drama.’ Closer “Who I Want You To Love” certainly has its moments, including possessing a soulfulness and a noisy guitar solo.

Calling Strange Desire ‘perfect’ would be an overstatement, but Jack Antonoff and company deliver a fine and enjoyable debut effort.  Sometimes it’s overdone, but more often that not, Strange Desire “shines bright like a diamond.” And as for Antonoff himself – he gets it done being ‘front and center.’

Favorites: “Wild Heart,” “Shadow,” “I Wanna Get Better,” “Like A River Runs”

★★★ ½

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