Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene
Arts and Crafts
roken Social Scene has a talent for threshing silk grist out of miscellany. They can start with a beat, let it gallop in an empty room for fifteen seconds, heap multiple guitar parts on it, join it to one of their many vocalists, hell maybe several moaning out in a shared instant, and pin you to the wall with their beautiful chaos. At times it all seems like a mis-start that the band was too tired to halt full-borne, and there’s a sensitive poesie to the inertia they build out of these false steps.
After the abortive post-rock of Feel Good Lost, 2002/2003’s breakout critical success, You Forgot it In People, channeled the toss-offs and the heated grind of their ascendant pop into an album’s worth of dirt-jean symphonies. Truly a record lover’s record, it was hard to tease any of the songs apart from their neighbors, as though just the effort would melt the entire ensemble into its myriad studio parts, a mislaid guitar line again sounding foul and out of place and two off-kilt beats clanging racket and distortion. Oh, and a trumpet with no bridge to cross.
With Broken Social Scene, this massive Canadian collective, summoned around principal duo Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, again manages to coalesce their many voices and pasts into a fluid cantata. Rough and furious, a sublime cough into the wind, they create a crude din without patience for getting things perfect. This is orchestral pop given the sand-grind, its shine and texture removed to leave a smear on something that was once natural. Take “Windsurfing Nation,” the track that lent its name to this record for many of its first incarnations. After starting as an experimental sound collage, a stumbling beat and wheezing vocals atop tangled guitar parts, the song wiggles into a prom-worthy fist-pumper. Unknown numbers of guitars spike and jingle around each other as something starts to spark, and before you know it, there’s a chorus and an upward pull. And then, what do you know, there goes K-Os, that backpackin’ slug, with a few verses to throw into the mix. It sounds like a post-millenial genre-fuck gone formula. Christ knows it shouldn’t work. But it does. I guess you knew I would say that.
But, as I said, to scrutinize a single track from Broken Social Scene is to see the trees. Just like its predecessor, this is a record meant for the long-player. Turn it on and go Indian-crouch until it’s over, every one of its blind loves in your teeth and your hair knotted by its thrashing. The sequencing is critical here, matching its faster tracks with moments of autumn calm. The gauzy vocals and horns—all sludge and brick-work sunk deep in the earth—and the blizzard production of “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Half)” melds into the stark beat and more upfront movement of “7/4 Shoreline,” reflecting the record’s talent for spit and shine. Likewise, a high-summer ballad, “Major Label Debut,” with its lilting acoustic guitars, has its soft shell cracked by the clamorous drive of “Fire Eye’d Boy.”
Though it loses its momentum in the final few tracks, and prevents me from giving it the downright slobbering it might otherwise deserve, Broken Social Scene, much like its release day partner, You Could Have it So Much Better. . ., is a cinder in the eye of all the indie-haters. These new stalwarts have done it again, and if perhaps there’s little to pull out as singles or iPod fodder here, it’s a treat for all the geezas out there: fourteen songs deep (and a bonus EP to boot, which collects some of the band’s more ambient material from the sessions), all by one ‘band.’ Or by countless like-minded goons, a loose gang of Canucks. Whichever makes you want to hear this.