Album Review — Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night by Bleachers
October 20, 2021
After sweeping success from their synth-filled, eighties-inspired debut album, Strange Desire, and their more modern & elevated sophomore effort, Gone Now, Bleachers quickly established themselves as a band unabashedly committed to breaking through radio monotony with anthemic pop-rock, curated to scream along with in a stadium or in a car with the windows down. Five-time Grammy winner Jack Antonoff, who started Bleachers as a side project in 2013, has reached a rare level of success for a producer, dipping his instrumentally intimate production choices into the works of pop superstars like Taylor Swift and Lorde.
With two successful albums under Bleachers’ belt and big names in the industry seemingly sparring for a seat next to Antonoff’s soundboard, expectations were high for Take The Sadness Out of Saturday Night, crafted in the depths of quarantine and inspired by feelings of entrapment and readiness for the next phase of life. Unfortunately, TTSOOSN falls apart in its identity.
The record tries to display a more stripped-back sound than Bleachers has explored before. While the band’s willingness to experiment with new instrumentation and genres is welcome in concept, the whiplash between guitar-saxophone duets, screeching yelps, staccato violins, bells, a few of the formulaically soaring moments that helped them top the Alternative charts, and swooning ballads encapsulates an album unsure of what it wants to be and difficult to listen to straight through. For a band with a proven history of carefully-crafted production, the chaos is concerning.
The string-filled opening track, “91,” mourningly chants, “We’ve been gone just a little too long now,” into the outro, an admittedly clever double entendre for the band’s four-year hiatus and the pause the whole world took over the past year-and-a-half. However, for an album claiming to “take the sadness out of Saturday night,” stories of ghosts, mothers, lost loves, and lost memories are pierced with a verging-on-exhausting level of desperation, a desire to want out and break free, which Antonoff jokingly labeled as “the same feeling as being from New Jersey.”
The lead single, “Chinatown,” whose lyrical clichés attempt to romanticize coming home to New Jersey from Manhattan’s bustle, includes the first of two dissatisfying artist features on the album; Bruce Springsteen’s subdued second verse seems both banally written and ironically self-aware of the Springsteen-inspired nostalgia that has been beat-to-death throughout the record. Meanwhile, “Secret Life” features Lana Del Rey, but relegates her beautiful mezzo-soprano lingering to background vocals on a dragging chorus, which can only be described as “a choice.”
To their credit, there is some promise for the kind of simplified instrumentation Bleachers brought in. The revving, call-and-response-filled “How Dare You Want More” shakes things up with a fun trading of solo fours between a guitarist and saxophonist, while the album’s clear peak is found in “45,” which proves Antonoff’s anthemic choruses can be impactful stripped-back to basics, with just a canyon-wide guitar strum and heart-filled lyrics. But TTSOOSN gets lost in trying to explore too much sound in just 34 minutes. Its musical stylings have been done before and better by artists focused on quality over using everything and the kitchen sink.
Though Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is a disappointingly flawed project that failed to make any ripples in the industry, the album’s experimentation and deeper authenticity allows hope for the band’s supporters. Just like Antonoff’s message to his past love, loyal fans should overall be able to weather this misstep and say to the band, “I’m still on your side.” However, listeners would be much better off heading to either of two previous records for a real insight into Bleachers’ finest.