Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night (RCA) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 16th, 2021  

Bleachers

Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night

RCA

Jul 30, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Less than a decade ago, seemingly unstoppable pop music polymath Jack Antonoff embarked on a prolific career as a collaborator and producer to a vast array of relevant artists from Taylor Swift and Lorde to Lana Del Rey and St. Vincent. While Antonoff’s prolific contributions to popular music of the 2010s and ’20s may occasionally overshadow his origins as an integral figure in the ’00s indie scene, such influences on his current output ought not be underestimated. He fronted Steel Train between 2002 and 2013 and, perhaps more significantly, served as a member of hit making musical trio fun., whose 2012 sophomore album Some Nights became a classic release of its decade. With such experience under his belt, Antonoff knows how to craft an intoxicating melody while continuing to keep his sound fresh, as evidenced on Strange Desire, his remarkable 2014 debut under the moniker Bleachers.

Antonoff’s signature brand of eccentric retro-inspired indie pop has represented a graceful transition from his career with fun., without breaking entirely with the sound of his earlier projects. Bleachers’ third album continues in this vein, marrying Antonoff’s honest Born in the U.S.A. fascinations and a penchant for infectious, synth-driven hooks with his Millennial alt rock sensibilities and inclination toward experimentation. Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night arrives as the logical next step from 2017’s challenging Gone Now, displaying a newfound sense of maturity and focus, as well as a slightly heavier sound reminiscent of Strange Desire’s core influences, namely those of 1980s arena rock giants. The reigning king of said giants, Antonoff’s fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, makes an exhilarating guest appearance on the album’s ultimate masterpiece, “Chinatown,” a creative feat which sees Antonoff at last touching the stars for which he has been reaching for the past seven years.

Structurally, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is not near as cohesive as that of the undeniably solid Strange Desire, and may resemble something of a mixed bag upon first listen, although a return or two will assure the listener that Antonoff ultimately has a vision worth following. What Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night has going for it is Antonoff’s characteristic willingness to cross fearlessly into unexplored territory, the majority of the album bearing little resemblance to its predecessors. The luscious, string-heavy “91” opens the album on an unexpectedly bleak note, with Antonoff associating feelings of romantic alienation and loneliness with childhood memories of his mother. Written with lyrical input from award-winning novelist Zadie Smith and produced in part by St. Vincent, “91” couples its baroque tendencies with a certain moody eeriness, looking better on Antonoff than one might have expected.

The sudden shift to the aforementioned “Chinatown” certainly feels drastic, shedding the orchestral flourishes and despondent ruminations of “91” to reveal a gritty, all-American backalley love song, its nostalgic guitar-driven sway and drilling synthesizers accompanying cinematically heart wrenching lyrics of pining and escape. Opening with the potentially iconic line “Get in my backseat, honeypie/And I’ll wear your sadness like it’s mine,” Antonoff effectively aligns himself with The Boss, who eventually emerges to offer his raspy interpretation of the song’s refrain, helping to make “Chinatown” not only the album’s key track, but also one of the greatest songs of the past decade.

The punchy “How Dare You Want More” continues in the album’s Springsteen influence with its inclusion of a rollicking saxophone, inviting the presence of the late Clarence Clemons. The incorporation of jangly guitar riffs and low, distorted vocals on the subsequent “Big Life” invites comparisons to old school R.E.M. standout track “Secret Life” revisits the mellow dorm room sound of early ’00s indie prevalent when Antonoff was fronting Steel Train. Meanwhile, the neon “Stop Making This Hurt” oozes with cheesy ’80s sentimentality, with Antonoff’s unique touch rescuing it from the crushing grip of novelty charm.

Co-written with Lana Del Rey, the likable “Don’t Go Dark” is a temperate pop number, disappointingly weaker than the general output of its composers, but listenable nonetheless. In its charming simplicity, stripped-down ballad “45” is one of the album’s stronger cuts, as is the delicate “Strange Behavior,” which adds an orchestral flair to Antonoff’s acoustic picking. The album’s devastating closing track, “What’d I Do With All This Faith?,” takes an approach similar to that of “45” and “Strange Behavior,” but emerges fuller and more raw, with Antonoff’s dazed voice insisting “I don’t want to wake up/Just to watch it die.” With its complete and utter sense of heartache and defeat, this track, perhaps more than any other, embodies the mood of the era in which Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night was recorded, serving as a fitting conclusion for an album of its time.

While lacking the consistency and pure inspiration of Strange Desire, easily among the finest albums of its decade, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night exceeds the value of its predecessor Gone Now. One might consider “Chinatown” a triumph and the album itself a small victory for the already busy Antonoff. While it may not be a major revelation, the new Bleachers album is bound to please. (www.bleachersmusic.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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