Bleachers, Strange Desire

Maura Johnston

By Maura Johnston

on 07.15.14 in Reviews

Strange Desire

The Bleachers

We tend to discuss new albums only in superlatives — best this, worst that, amazing, shocking. What happens to the just-OK album, then, the one full of catchy, well-executed songs that might not be groundbreaking but that are sure to find listeners outside of the hype cycle?

Nods to past New Wave triumphs, delivered with arena-sized ambition

Strange Desire, the debut album from Bleachers, might answer this question if not for the pre-existing fame of its principal member — Jack Antonoff, Jersey-rock lifer, guitarist for the megaband fun., and boyfriend of New York media-beloved Lena Dunham. The baggage accompanying it will probably dominate much of its coverage, which is too bad, because Strange Desire itself is a solid series of effervescent homages to past New Wave triumphs, delivered with arena-sized ambition. “Shadow” opens with a jittery guitar before transforming itself a soccer-crowd rework of Joe Jackson’s “You Can’t Get What You Want”; “Reckless Love” has a militaristic beat over which Antonoff’s lower-depths voice asks for “a chance to remember.”

Throughout, Antonoff sings of madness and sadness, blending thrillingly upbeat music and heart-on-sleeve lyrics in such a way that when Yoko Ono drops in for a cameo on the penultimate track “I’m Ready to Move On,” singing of falling snow over broken-up piano chords roll the quieter left turn makes absolute sense.