Album Reviews

Bleachers – Bleachers

(Dirty Hit) UK release date: 8 March 2024

The Hardest Working Man In Showbusiness Jack Antonoff has made an album full of lushly produced, saxophone-drenched pop-rock anthems

Bleachers - Bleachers Jack Antonoff could be a contender for that hoary old title The Hardest Working Man In Showbusiness. Over the last few years, he’s become almost ubiquitous as a producer and songwriter – collaborating with, to name but a few, Lorde, Taylor Swift, The 1975, Florence & The Machine and St Vincent. If that’s not enough for one man, he’s also fronted indie-rock band Fun, and is also the man behind Bleachers – for whom, this self-titled effort is their fourth album, and is, for anyone who’s heard any of the band’s previous material, very much more of the same.

For Antonoff is definitely of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset – this is an album full of lushly produced, saxophone-drenched pop-rock anthems. When it works, it works brilliantly: you’re unlikely to hear a more infectiously catchy song than Modern Girl all year. From the counted-in intro to the big, singalong chorus, it already sounds like a classic stadium anthem in waiting.

Bleachers isn’t an album that stays still though. Woke Up Today is a frail acoustic ballad, simply Antonoff’s voice against a gently strummed guitar, while Alma Matar features some guest vocals from none other than another frequent Antonoff collaborator, Lana Del Rey, lending her very own brand of languid majesty to the song.

Tiny Moves is another instantly likeable track, one of many songs about his new wife, actress Margaret Qualley. It’s a song simply about how much he loves her wife (“The tiniest moves you make, watching my whole world shake”) yet its ’80s style synth stylings means it never sounds cloying or overtly sentimental. Woke Up Today is on similar lyrical territory, but the slower tracks seem balanced by a calming sense of melancholy, as if the grief which Antonoff experienced earlier in life (his sister died of a brain tumour at the age of 13) has been balanced out by his new love.

However, as professional and polished as these tracks undoubtedly are, there remains something that stops you fully embracing Bleachers. It could be the fact that it all sometimes sounds a bit smug and cold, or it could be the fact that Antonoff never, ever hides his influences – his love of fellow New Jersey boy Bruce Springsteen is well documented, but Me For You sounds like a carbon copy of The Boss’ Secret Garden, and the sheer amount of saxophone breaks means that the ghost of Clarence Carter is never too far away. At other times, Antonoff’s voice is processed and run through a vocoder, and it could be Bon Iver – at others, he’s nodding to Mark E Everett of Eels. And, that means, unfortunately, that some of these songs pale in comparison to the artists they’re paying tribute to.

That being said, his work rate is impressive and a man with as many Grammys to his name as Antonoff must be doing something right. Making your fourth album a self-titled record seems to mark either the beginning or an end of a particular phrase, and the fact that this is Bleachers’ first release on the Dirty Hit label indicates the former. If Antonoff can add more of his own personality into songs as beautifully crafted and well produced as these, they could unleash something special.

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