The 1990s were a weird time of misplaced optimism; to go through adolescence in the 90s, as Jack Antonoff did, was to feel invincible and to feel an inherent sense of confidence that everything would work out all right in the end. Of course it didn’t, and many of the biggest problems that plague us today (climate change, income inequality, criminal injustice) can be traced, in large part, back to the decisions made during that era. These contrasting truths, the hedonism of the 90s up against the legacy of that era, are captured perfectly on the opening track ’91’ of Bleacher’s new album (“It’s ’91, a war is on / I watch in black, white and green / My mother dances around like there ain’t no rip in the seam”.)
Scattered across ‘Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night’ are moments of lyrical inspiration like this: ’45’ has an epic verse of poetry (“All the blessings are somebody else’s / They’re flowers in my neighbour’s pot / I’m torn exactly into two pieces / One who wants you and one who’s gone dark”) while Lana Del Rey assist ‘Secret Life’ captures that transition from revelling in youthful unrest to wanting to settle down with the love of your life for the rest of your life (“I want a secret life / Where you and I can get bored out of our minds”).
Moments like this, however, are few and far between on Bleacher’s third studio album; which fails to find a strong identity of it’s own. On it, Antonoff leans into the influence of his musical hero Bruce Springsteen, who is featured here on ‘Chinatown’; a song written by Antonoff, but that just as easily could’ve solely been a product of Springsteen’s. ‘Stop Making This Hurt’, meanwhile, leans into the Springsteen influence to an almost comical degree; all the way down to the referencing of “tryna break free of New Jersey”. Songs like this, alongside the likes of ‘Stop Making This Hurt’, will undoubtedly sound epic live with their booming full band sound, but they just don’t sound like Antonoff’s own. The best works Antonoff has worked on sound unmistakeably his own (‘Melodrama’, ‘Norman F*cking Rockwell’), but ‘Take The Sadness Out’ sounds like little more than a collection of it’s influences (Bob Dylan and The Boss in it’s more up-tempo moments, Elliott Smith in it’s sombre reflective moments). It’s a consistently enjoyable listen, it’s just unclear – beyond a few highlights – why one would choose to listen to this album over the classics that inspired it.
Best Tracks: ’91’, ‘Chinatown’, ‘Secret Life’, ’45’, ‘Strange Behaviour’
Worst Tracks: ‘Big Life’