“Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night,” Bleachers (RCA Records)
How's this for a flex from Jack Antonoff? Get no less than Bruce Springsteen to show up on your new solo album. For background vocals.
The Boss helps the multi-instrumentalist and super-producer on Bleachers' song “Chinatown” and the results are electric, a sound from two New Jersey lads reminiscent of The National mashed with “Born to Run.” Springsteen appears on only that one song, but he's spiritually all over this album.
Antonoff, the guitarist in the band fun. who also records as Bleachers, channels The Boss' driving, sax-and-jam sound in “How Dare You Want More,” “Big Life” and "Don't Go Dark," but his idiosyncratic musical tastes are also on vivid display on the terrific 10-track “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night.”
No song prepares you for whatever comes next in this collection from an artist who has sharpened the recent sound of Taylor Swift, St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey, Sia, Lorde and The Chicks. (There’s a sly Lorde call-back when he sings on “Chinatown”: “Gimme that big red light.” Her light, of course, was green.)
Some of his famous pals help out on “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night,” but Del Rey fails to make herself present on “Secret Life,” while she and The Chicks barely register on “Don’t Go Dark,” which is another tune with a very Bruce vibe.
Antonoff gets heartfelt on “45,” an ode to leaving his hometown, which references John Coltrane and has the album's best line — “While you’re praying at the ’90s/They’re carving up anything that lasts.” The song “Stop Making This Hurt” has a Talking Heads-meets-Chumbawamba feel and is a tremendous, foot-stomping sing-along.
The album opener — the cello-and-violin beauty “91” — has an unexpected lyrical assist from novelist Zadie Smith and the 10-track collection ends with two downbeat examinations of belief, the dreamy “Strange Behavior” and the melancholy “What’d I Do with All This Faith?” He ends sing-whispering the phrase: “Ain’t no faith can take your place.” Take a listen: You'll be a believer.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits