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?
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.