Antonoff is also a member of Fun, currently on hiatus, as well as a producer and co-composer for Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Rey, St. Vincent and more. Given so many other commitments, it’s hardly surprising that Bleachers have released just three albums since their 2014 debut. But the new “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” makes the off-and-on group sound like a full-time proposition, largely because synths play a smaller role and the other musicians a more substantial one. Such songs as “How Dare You Want More,” with its playful guitar-saxophone duel, actually seem meant more for live performance than digital streaming.
That song’s instrumental break worked just fine at the Anthem, as did a rhythm section breakdown during “You’re Still a Mystery.” Such freewheeling moments were, as expected, brief. Bleachers take the epic style of Bruce Springsteen, a major Antonoff influence and a fellow New Jersey native who has a guest spot on the group’s “Chinatown,” and distill it into songs compact enough for 1960s Top 40 radio. Only “You’re Still a Mystery” was allowed to run much more than three minutes, and that’s because it functioned as the climax to the main set. The band then paused, but didn’t leave the stage, before roaring into a trio of crowd-pleasers that were essentially encores, culminating in “Stop Making This Hurt.”
That song, the source of the title of Bleachers’ latest album, is exemplary: pop-therapy lyrics yoked to an emo-punk chorus that insists everyone join in. The virtuosic eclecticism that has earned Antonoff so many production gigs could be heard throughout the set — in “Shadow’s” underlying disco beat, “Goodmorning’s” Britpop stateliness and “I Wanna Get Better’s” subtle Caribbean lilt. But all such flourishes were designed primarily to propel the songs to the moment when fans could shout along with a sweeping refrain and take some of the sadness out of Friday night.