The cover is a work of genius.
Strange way to start this review maybe, but the artwork for Gone Now by Bleachers is a prime candidate for a game I like to play called Cover Roulette. The rules of Cover Roulette are very simple:
You pick an album based on the cover alone and nothing else.
You cannot pick an album by an artist that you already know, be it either a side project or main band/solo work.
That is it, a simple game that has introduced me to some fantastic artists (as well as some awful records). Gone Now is technically now part of this game, or at least it would be if I had not already listened to this and sort of reviewed it for another blog. But the difference here is that I am finally getting to do an in depth review, fleshing out my views on this record but basically getting to the same result. So, here is a little bit about the Bleachers (aka – Jack Antonoff).
Mr Antonoff made his name in Steel Train and Fun, both acts experiencing various degrees of success. I will admit I know more about Fun than I know about Steel Train, but both acts have an awkward energy which drives the music, the sound of the outsider who is in a position of observance that other people never achieve. He has also a much sort after producer and song writer, working with the likes of Lorde and Taylor Swift. He is being named dropped in a way that Timberland was when he started to work with Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado in the early 2000’s, he is current a man in vogue and that is a good place to be. So how does this album sound?
Musically Bleachers’ Gone Now is in debt to a lot of artists that went before it.
As well as his previous musical ventures, this owes a debt to bands and artists such as Hello Goodbye, Weezer, Ben Folds (Five & Solo), Erasure, Panic! At The Disco, Devo, Pet Shop Boys, Atom & His Package, White Town and much more. They paved the way for musicians of this nature to be taken with an ounce of respect from the wider music community, something that is not said with any disrespect intended.
It is a geek indie pop explosion of colours and sound, it is a joyous album that deal with love, self-esteem and the human condition. But there was a time when a project such as this, rightly or wrongly, would have been classed a geek project. Something that was not supposed to reach the general unwashed, something that was for the musical anoraks and that is an unfair position for this album. But the world has changed and the musicians are taking the world over. Bleachers are positioning themsleves front and centre of this wave.
Gone Now also has a celluloid flavour, especially the works of John Hughes (something that the band have noted themselves). You could imagine each of the songs on this album being used for a modern remake of one of his films, where the protagonist finds out they had it all in front of them in the first place. I think that the 80’s influence on the sound of Bleachers is undeniable, but it is not a pale facsimile of a by-gone age. It has a modern production job that elevates it over a mere tribute album, it has a soul which is fragile and beautiful, with songs being self referenced throughout (“Dream of Mickey Mantle” mentions “Don’t Take the Money” which appears later the album).
In a nutshell, the album (and all pop albums to a certain extent) is all about love and yearning for companionship.
It is about the yearning for a soul mate, having those feverish desires explored with a lover and the satisfaction of achieving your goals, nothing more and nothing less. The quality tracks of the Gone Now include (but not limited to) “Don’t Take the Money” (a song about love being equated to money and a relationship ending – featuring a guest appearance from the brilliant Lorde), “I Miss Those Days” (a OTT Panic! At The Disco-esque tune looking towards the past), “Let’s Get Married” (a song about facing the world with a loved one by your side) and “Everybody Lost Somebody” (a song about loss and getting your shit together). Each song on the album is a pop-anthem in waiting, they have a crowd chanting feel about them, that they are people pleasing songs from the outset.
If I was looking too deeply into Gone Now and seriously searching for a problem, it is that Bleachers have created an album that has a cookie cutter vibe.
The songs have a similar feeling in places and it feels like the album goes on for about two songs too many, but it is better to have that sort of problem when the quality of the material is top draw. However, this is just looking for something to criticise, in truth, it does not harm the record at all. Gone Now is an album that feels like a hidden gem, one that is for the select few, at least in the UK where I am from. In the US, it has been doing good business and reaching 44 in the Billboard 200. But what do charts really mean, when you come down to it?
Basically, Gone Now will turn into a cult classic, a secret for people to discover on their own, which is the best-case scenario for this type of record.
Bleachers have created a quality pop record with a modern edge and production, something that will hopefully not become outdated too much over the years. And here is the rub, are we going to be listening to this in years to come? I would not like to say at this point, it is something that will only become obvious over time. But there is enough about this record to hint that it is a keeper, one that will mature in years to come. If you like your pop to be geeky and full of teenage drama, this is for you.
Rating: 4/5 – In geek, we trust.