Every few years or so you hear about a magical super-producer that’s seemingly always creating massive tunes for other artists. And every time I’m left wondering if these producers do it because they can’t sing and are just good at lyrics and song structure. I’m sure there have been plenty of producers that are more than happy to not appear behind the microphone, but an example of one who isn’t afraid to get behind the mic and front a band is Jack Antonoff. In the form of his band Bleachers, Antonoff pulls on the frontman pants, puts himself front of stage and manages to pull off ten quality songs on the band’s third album Take The Sadness Out of Saturday Night.
Having never really taken the time to listen to much of Bleachers, I came into this album fully well knowing Antonoff could craft a pop song, but wasn’t entirely sure how his ability to work with others would translate into his own work. Would it sound exactly like all the pop songs he’s made with acts like Lorde and Taylor Swift, or would it be similar in sound to his previous bands like Fun.? Well, it turns out, Bleachers’ new album sounds nothing like either of those comparisons, and if anything TTSOOSN sounds like the love child of Bruce Springsteen and more recent Vampire Weekend.
Clocking in at a little more than 30 minutes in length, TTSOOSN is an easy and enjoyable listen that shines a light on Antonoff’s ability to meld pop sensibilities with all-out cracker choruses. The recording of the album feels as though all band members were in the room when it was recorded, with throw away laughs and cackles featuring throughout its run, a la Beach Boys “Barbara Ann”-esque. While not occurring on every song, it’s a refreshing enough change up that keeps the listener pleasantly surprised as the album progresses.
Opening with the orchestra tinged “91”, it feels like the track could very well have been written by Ezra Koenig. Almost delivered as a spoken word opener, “91” eases you into the album with a subtle swear and delicate layering. The first blatantly Springsteen influenced moment on the album is “Chinatown”, which funnily enough features Springsteen on a chorus. A shoegaze driven four minutes, “Chinatown” is a powerful ballad filled with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a massive set closer (as in it literally has bells and whistles throughout).
The completely fun “How Dare You Want More” kicks on after “Chinatown”. Seemingly recorded straight out of a band jam session, the addition of multiple saxophones and guitar solos adds a depth of fun to the song that will be hard to be topped in a live setting. It genuinely feels like it’ll be that one song in a festival set where they purposely time the confetti cannon for the drop out of the bridge.
“Big Life” is nostalgia-tinged, throwing back to an 80’s classic rock sound, not dissimilar to something you’d hear on the soundtrack of a John Hughes film. Followed up with the woozy “Secret Life” featuring Lana Del Rey, the first half of the album is all rose coloured glasses, with Antonoff looking longingly back (or forward) to a life and time where things are a little bit better and easier for himself and his love. The second half of the album kicks off where the first ended, as the full-blown single of the album “Stop Making This Hurt” makes an appearance. Drenched in similar vibes to “How Dare You Want More” (saxophone solos and all), “Stop Making This Hurt” is one for those being introduced to Bleachers for the first time.
The further the album progresses, the more you realise how much Antonoff must have been listening to Springsteen during the development of the tracklisting. The album peaks on “Don’t Go Dark” and “45”, two songs that have a definite “Dancing in the Dark” ethos to them and will definitely leave the album and Antonoff well placed to be compared to some of America’s greats for years to come. “Don’t Go Dark” is a complete sing-a-long filled with sleigh bells, charismatic backing vocals and a charming exit that will live in your brain for days at a time.
TTSOOSN does end on a dour note, with “Strange Behaviour” and “What’d I Do With All This Faith” seemingly afterthoughts and lacking the punch and enjoyment the rest of the album has managed to create. Despite this, it’s glaringly obvious Jack Antonoff is some kind of musical genius when it comes to producing for others. This knack has transferred into what Bleachers has released on Take The Sadness Out of Saturday Night, an album that, for the most part, does what the label says.