Broken Bells: Where To Start With Danger Mouse
Next week will see the release of the second album by Broken Bells, a collaborative side project between The Shins’ vocalist James Mercer and producer Brian Burton, better known to most people as Danger Mouse. The new record, After The Disco, picks up where their eponymous 2010 debut left off, with Burton once again eschewing the sample-based approach often associated with his work in favour playing live instruments. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Burton said of the new record: “We used the same couple of guitars, the same bass, the same drums, maybe two or three synthesizers at most for the whole album. I like the idea of two guys being able to make something that sounds really big. It’s not dance music by any means, but it’s fast enough to be danced to.
Since he emerged in 2004 with his controversial mixtape The Grey Album – created entirely using uncleared samples from both Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album, hence the title – Burton has been involved in a range of projects of his own as well as working as producer for a number of acts including Beck, The Black Keys and Gorillaz. With a pretty exhaustive list to choose from over the last decade, we’ve picked out five of his best career moments so far:
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The Mouse and The Mask
Released in 2005 under the name Danger Doom, The Mouse and The Mask is a collaborative project between Burton and rapper MF Doom. Essentially it’s a concept album based around the programmes of cult cable network Adult Swim. Burton’s production is complemented by Doom’s unique rapping style and surreal lyrics, making this one of the best and most unusual projects Burton has worked on. Highlights include ‘Sofa King’, ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ and ‘Old School Rules’, the latter featuring guest raps from Talib Kweli and based around a sample from Keith Mansfield’s ‘Funky Fanfare’.
Danger Mouse and Daniele Lippi
Inspired by the music of the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1970s, Rome is a collaboration between Burton and Italian composer Daniele Lippi. The album took five years to make and includes guest appearances from Jack White and Norah Jones, who appear on three tracks each. White’s composition ‘Two Against One’ is one of the album’s standout tracks, while tracks such as ‘Roman Blue’ offer an authentic feel helped by the use of vintage, analogue recording equipment and even the use of some of the session musicians who played on the film soundtracks that inspired the record.
Dark Night of The Soul
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
One of the most ambitious projects Burton has embarked upon, Dark Night Of The Soul was originally intended as a multimedia sound and art gallery featuring numerous artists including Frank Black, Gruff Rhys and Iggy Pop to name a few, with the main collaborators being Burton himself and Mark Linkous of the band Sparklehorse. Originally intended for release in 2009, the project was mired in difficulty from early on when Burton became locked in a legal dispute with EMI. The album was finally released in June 2010, 3 months after Linkous took his own life aged 47. This tragic end adds poignancy to what is already a beautiful and complex album, with highlights including ‘Little Girl’, featuring a vocal performance from Julian Casablancas.
The first of two albums released under the Gnarls Barkley name, St. Elsewhere teams Burton’s production skills with the vocals of ex-Goodie Mob member CeeLo Green, launching the latter’s solo career and featuring the smash hit single ‘Crazy’. Other standouts include ‘Smiley Faces’ and ‘Gone Daddy Gone’, but it’s a very strong record and highly recommended listening.
Ghetto Pop Life
Danger Mouse and Jemini
Before The Grey Album shot Burton to fame and notoriety, he was already busy building himself a reputation as an inventive hip-hop producer and Jemini’s 2003 album Ghetto Pop Life is one of the best examples. Standouts include the title track and the jazz-sampling ‘Knuckle Sandwich’, but the real highlight is ‘The Only One’. Not to be missed.
You find download links for the albums listed below: