Bleachers
Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night


3.5
great

Review

by Sowing STAFF
July 30th, 2021 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Baby we were born to run (out of ideas). Despite the blatant Springsteen worship, Antonoff still manages to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Jack Antonoff is one of the most recognized figures in mainstream music today. He was the man behind the scenes on instant pop classics like Taylor Swift's 1989, Lorde's Melodrama, and Lana Del Rey's Norman Fucking Rockwell!, and his solo debut under the Bleachers moniker, Strange Desire, remains a stalwart of indie summer playlists. As influential as he's been over the last decade, his style has also begun to wear thin among many of his own listeners. The most recent instance was the trending accusation that Lorde's single 'Stoned at the Nail Salon' sounds almost exactly like Lana Del Rey's 'Wild at Heart'; Antonoff produced both. Those who've heard Clairo's latest LP Sling can also attest to the sonic overlap between its songs and the atmosphere on many other Antonoff collaborations. Eventually, it all starts to blur together. Even if Antonoff is something of a one-trick pony, then it's a glorious trick because it took roughly seven years for us to tire of it. Some of us still aren't feeling any fatigue, which is a sign of just how strong Antonoff's brand is.

Trek back with me to 2017 for a moment: it was a great year for Jack, as he helped guide Melodrama to its soaring levels of success, and he also had his hand in St. Vincent's Masseduction on fan-favorite tracks like 'New York' and 'Happy Birthday Johnny'. While he was enjoying the fruits of collaborating with such skilled artists, his own musical career suffered a little bit of a stumble. He released Gone Now, which while boasting all the same bells and whistles as 2014's Strange Desire, was basically a zero-calorie version of it. The anthems weren't as invigorating, the ballads were less compelling, and the melodies not quite as memorable. It appears to have been a lesson learned for Jack, as four years later we see him doing something very un-Antonoff like: flipping the script entirely. On Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night, he dials down the theatrics, dials up the vintage rock, and leans into his best Bruce Springsteen impression. Surprisingly, it's not nearly as bad as you might think.

On the surface, yes - it sounds like a disaster in the making. After all, we already have better modern Springsteens who are both more exciting and less of a carbon-copy (take Gang of Youths for instance). Also, the idea that Antonoff seems to be trying something new without actually trying something new seems like it should denote a frustrating transition in his solo career. But for what Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night lacks in originality, it makes up for in craft. Here, the songwriting is much tighter than on Gone Now, and the album is far more consistent as a result. There are no tracks that boom with the anthemic qualities of 'Don't Take the Money', but it also never really falls off the way Gone Now did with extended pockets of boredom like 'All My Heroes', 'Goodbye' and 'Nothing is U'. Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night remains true to its mission statement of intricate and melodic slow rock, and at a breezy thirty-four minutes, it never has the chance to stagnate. While this record's predecessor was the definition of a mixed bag, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is markedly reliable - a product that you're likely to either take or leave in its entirety.

If Gone Now had morning vibes and Strange Desire was a euphoric rush of summer sun, then Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is the comedown after. It's like watching a live band play an outdoor concert as the sun fades behind the trees, offering encores beneath a star-lit sky. Part of that is because Antonoff trades in his usual glitzy synth-pop for sax-tinged rock 'n' roll surrounded by a full band. There are noticeable instrumental improvements all across the experience, from guitars which are higher in the mix to raw and lively drumming. Vocally, Antonoff (plus any collaborators) sound as if they're huddled around the microphone singing in unison. This entire album feels like it's happening right in front of you, and considering that most of us have gone years without attending any live shows, it's a welcome transformation of Bleachers' aesthetic.

Another reason that Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night feels so personal is because of the lyrics. The content here is ponderous and awestruck, revolving around love/relationships and even infidelity. The string-swept '91' feels like locking eyes with someone across the room, and there's a tension stemming from the pursuit of something (or someone) that would turn you into somebody you aren't: "I know what I'm not...Just like you, I can't leave." On the acoustic ballad 'Secret Life', Jack sings atop stuttering drums "Out of my head I'm beggin' for skin to skin / You don't say much 'cause you've been cheated before me"..."I just want a secret life / Where you and I can get bored out of our minds." Lana Del Rey's voice crests over the second verse and chorus, awash in reverb like a hazy dream. By the arrival of 'Stop Making This Hurt', he seems to want nothing more to do with all this temptation: "Stop making this hurt / and say goodbye like you mean it." These are all loose interpretations that bear no reflection on Antonoff of course - most of the lyrics are told from a perspective (as if in a story), while other lines are entirely metaphorical. Regardless, it's all a step up conceptually from fun but admittedly vapid choruses like "Rollercoaster, I don't say no / Rollercoaster, when you don't say no / And it's such a rollercoaster!" The contrast between that and the moment here when Jack sings, "But if we take the sadness out of Saturday night, I wonder what we’ll be left with / Anything worth the fight?" is palpable.

All of this makes for a very intimate third LP for Bleachers. Whereas Strange Desire and Gone Now felt sleek, modern, and explosive, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night is meek, antiquated, and introspective. The inherent drawback is that this record fails to reach the epic heights which delivered Bleachers into the limelight in the first place. However, this piece flows better and possesses a more unified air. It's a trade-off that will favor listens in thoughtful isolation over action-packed road trips. Some may be disappointed by this fact - especially considering that Bleachers is basically synonymous with summer fun - but since we already have albums like Strange Desire in our back pocket, it's nice to see a different side of this project. Furthermore, dragging out Antonoff's standard approach for a third time would have only seen the diminished returns of Gone Now continue. Springsteen worship may not be the long-term cure for what many are coining "Antonoff fatigue", but in the meantime, it's a nice novelty item and a pleasant little distraction.



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user ratings (52)
3
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
July 30th 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I liked this more than Gone Now but nowhere near as much as Strange Desire; let that be a barometer for what you can expect here.

Sowing
Moderator
July 30th 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This isn't "big fun" and you definitely shouldn't approach it with the expectation that it will be Strange Desire 2.0. It's got a cozy live band feel that I certainly enjoyed, the lyrics are improved, and there's a consistent "album atmosphere", but it also loses points for originality and not being all that thrilling. It's certainly better than I expected though, so I wouldn't avoid it like the plague unless you hate Springsteen (in which case I'd then advise that you do exactly that!)

Tiberone
July 30th 2021


51 Comments


Real nice review. As a longtime Jack Antonoff fan, How Dare You Want More might be one of my favorite things I’ve heard from him. It’s amazing how much fun is packed into 4 minutes there. Maybe I’m hearing what I want to but this album seems like less of a self indulgent vanity project than his last two releases. I hope he continues down that path.

Sowing
Moderator
July 30th 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, and 100% agreed. This is definitely some straight up Springsteen worship, but somehow it's also really cohesive, warm, and personal. Would love to hear the full band sound and intimate setting of this but with more of Jack's tendencies and less of Bruce's.

JWT155
July 30th 2021


14948 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I loved both prior records, this one I like but I think is a step down from the last two.



The peaks here just aren't as high as the last two records and, there's a decent amount of filler/stuff that bores me even with it's short length.



Great review as always sowing!

Knott-
Emeritus
July 30th 2021


10260 Comments


In a year's time I think everyone will be pretending they always knew this was the best Bleachers album, it's beautifully crazy and crazy beautiful.

JWT155
July 30th 2021


14948 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

We'll see! Great to see you Knott.

Sowing
Moderator
July 31st 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like this a lot but it won't ever top Strange Desire. That album is a classic.

This is definitely better than a lot of people will let on though...I was torn between a 3.5 and 4.

Lucman
July 31st 2021


5537 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I got the Sprinsteen worship as well. Painfully mediocre.

Sowing
Moderator
July 31st 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm simultaneously in the camp that says this is great as well as the one that says it's totally unoriginal, ha. Albums can be both, I guess!

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
July 31st 2021


5817 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Couple really nice songs on here (I like Chinatown a lot, in particular) but not blowing me away by any means. This did get me to revisit Gone Now though, which was definitely better than I remember it being.

Sowing
Moderator
July 31st 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah I was a tad harsh on Gone Now at the time of its release (I've since adjusted my review score from that original 2.7 to a 3.2). It's definitely still my least favorite Bleachers (this is noticeably better), but everything Bleachers has done is good or better. Strange Desire is bordering classic status for me, I should just bump it to a 5 now. (edit: done!)

Lucman
August 1st 2021


5537 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I revisited Gone Now too and I still really like that album. It has so much character and liveliness to it and I don't know much else like it.

Sowing
Moderator
August 1st 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Goodmorning had some serious Beatles vibes that he just abandoned thereafter. More of that would have been awesome, but the rest of the songs were either tepid "anthems" that fell short of what he did on SD or weird vocodered radio pop. This is easily superior to GN.

JWT155
August 1st 2021


14948 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I prefer Gone Now to this, I even find it better then Strange Desires at times.

Sowing
Moderator
August 1st 2021


43938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I feel so weird not seeing in a fun pop album what everyone else does. It's like the roles have reversed.

Project
August 2nd 2021


5806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Big Life is one of the worst songs I've heard in a long time



rest of the album is alright even it has the usual frustating Antonoffisms (stacking softer tracks at the end of the album to absolutely kill all its momentum, for one). but Stop Making This Hurt and 45 are good enough that I might spin this again later to see if it clicks

Romulus
August 2nd 2021


9109 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

didn't love this on first run through but heck yeah for joining the strange desire 5 club, that album is massive

Project
August 2nd 2021


5806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Strange Desire has some absolute bangers but the last two tracks keep it from 5 or even 4.5 status

Romulus
August 2nd 2021


9109 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

extremely fair, it trails off at the end for me too



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