Jack Antonoff started his career as the drummer for Fun., an auspicious launch that didn’t begin to hint at his orchestral pop sensibilities. He transitioned into a solo project with alter-ego Bleachers for 2014’s Strange Desire, a straight-up excellent pop album, full of sweeping anthems and infectious choruses. Antonoff has since become something of a pop wunderkind, collaborating with the likes of Sia, Lorde, Taylor Swift, Zayn, Grimes, Tegan and Sara, and Carly Rae Jepsen. In the three years since Bleachers’ debut, the man has proven he knows his way around a pop song, which is why his follow-up album is ultimately such a disappointment.
Directly influenced by the likes of U2 and his hometown hero Bruce Springsteen, he imbues Gone Now with all the affectations of a big, sprawling pop masterpiece – spoken word segments, sound effects, reprises, and sax solos. True to his nature he finds places for guests like Carly Rae Jepsen and Lorde, while working with producers Greg Kurstin, Emilie Haynie, Organized Noize, Sounwave and nineteen85. Even with all the flourishes and pedigree you can imagine, Gone Now comes out for the most part as much too maximalist for its own good, becoming over-indulgent. It looks sugary and sweet, but it’s full of empty calories.
There are bright spots, however, like lead single ‘Don’t Take the Money.’ If John Hughes was still around and making movies, this song would be the soundtrack to the big romantic centerpiece of the film, all lovesick desperation and swelling synths with a grandiose conclusion. Other highlights include the heartbeat-pulse synths and nostalgic ruminations of ‘All My Heroes’ and the sweet-without- being-saccharine melody of ‘Nothing is U.’ The would-be standout ‘Goodmorning’ loses its lustre with a series of reprises that quickly serve to drag the album.
Bleachers‘ first album was not known for its subtlety, but it did manage lyrics had their own nuance without being cloying and hollow. Gone Now’s biggest offenders are album closer ‘Foreign Girls’ and ‘Let’s Get Married.‘ The latter’s conflict between its simplistic lyrics and lavish music comes out sounding like the musical version of an extravagant, public proposal gone wrong. The track’s sax solo and mundane lines like ‘I’m at the car wash/ gotta get cleaned up’ combine for a course in banality, experienced in its aimlessness.
Gone Now seems destined to be a mere footnote in Antonoff’s already impressive career, or a place for him to unload his excesses. In any case, when you have a resume like his, you can be assured of your place in the musical realm. It is the lesser of two Bleachers projects, and it is almost certainly the lesser of the Jack Antonoff releases in 2017, with the Antonoff co-written and co-produced Melodrama by Lorde coming out later this month. What can be said about his latest offering is that it adds a few key songs to his already illustrious songbook.
Gone Now was released on June 2nd , 2017 via RCA.