In 2006, Bishop Allen released an EP of new material every month. It was an interesting exercise that netted some noteworthy buzz for the band (which features Little Rock native Christian Rudder on drums). Now Bishop Allen is back with a full-length album, “The Broken String” (Dead Oceans), which is largely made up of new recordings of the EP songs.
For the new album's arrangements, the band steals a page from Sufjan Stevens' playbook, complete with poorly played banjos, out of tune horns, toy pianos, and painfully overwrought songs. It's not just the production that bugs. There's also the consistently flat vocals, faux British accents and twee lyrics. I found it nearly impossible to continue listening after the first song, which features singer Justin Rice singing about the battle of the Monitor and Merrimac with an earnestness that can only be described as Billy Joel-ish. Imagine an indie-ironic “Piano Man.” Ugh.
Unfortunately, The Broken String's most listenable track comes too late in the sequence. “Middle Management” (track 10) is a catchy power-pop rave up that would make the Hoodoo Gurus proud, but it hardly fits with the rest of the meandering album.
Regardless of this reviewer's disdain, iPods all over Williamsburg undoubtedly have “The Broken String” in heavy rotation, and I fully expect to hear “The Chinatown Bus” on the soundtrack to “Return to Garden State.”