Review Summary: The Kings and Queens of Canadian indie-rock revel in their reign.
Toronto based indie rockers Broken Social Scene are about as high as it gets when it comes to the pyramid of envy right about now. Not only have Kevin Drew and co. become a staple nestled in-between every self respecting indie kid’s Playlist of Cool, but they’re practically the shiny, glowing sun holding together an entire musical universe of other bands – that sprawlingly beautiful, artfully infused rock that’s crept up all across the musical landscape? (Stars, Alcoholic Faith Mission, Pomegranates – the usual suspects) – Yeah, that was Broken Social Scene’s doing. And even if, say, I’m getting the musical topology all wrong, the intriguing point is that the Scene’s ascension didn’t happen in a blaze of glory, but rather in really weird sort of reverse way. Rewind, oh, five or six years back, and this becomes glaringly obvious: There’s excitement in the air, Metric is just beginning to bang out their brand of radio friendly rock, Godspeed You! Black Emperor are off single-handedly defining post-rock, Feist is doing the singer-songwriter thing and the Arcade Fire, well, the Arcade Fire are being fuc
But none of these guys (and gals) can really provide a touchstone to ground it all: Metric are too easy
, GY!BE are too cerebral, Feist is too womanly, and the Arcade Fire are just too damn strange. Cue the settling of dust, with the musical arbiters and lovers having groped their way around the darkness of the emerging scene – and in the middle of it all? The
Scene, playing a gorgeous mix of viscerally moving indie and harder edged rock outs to near perfection. In other words, the band were discovered among a scene
, not simply a stand alone phenomenon unto themselves. What this means of course, is that the pyramid of envy that Broken Social Scene find themselves sitting on isn’t just a matter of playing amazing music, but having that oh-so-longed for air of authenticity
that just about everyone is out for. So, question. What does this have to do with the band’s latest, Forgiveness Rock Record? Answer: Everything. If you can get this about Broken Social Scene, you can get exactly where Rock Record forges its identity and finds it’s soul. And soul it has, in abundance.
For one, they called it Forgiveness Rock
Record for a reason. It’s a celebration of exactly that top-of-the-pyramid sentiment which the Scene finds themselves embroiled in. Gone is the softly softly approach that characterized You Forgot It In People and Self Titled, replaced instead with a breathtaking certainty that the band has only ever dabbled in before. Despite Drew’s confession that “…I get world sick, every time I take a step”, there’s simply no doubting the power of the dazzling spiral guitar lines that creep their way across the opening track’s mix of pounding drums and pools of reverberated ambiance. In fact, it’s to the urgent beat of “Chase Scene” that Forgiveness Rock Record sets its mission statement out flatly: “I think I’m ready to fight for the scene of my life!”. And as if the band couldn’t make it any clearer, “Art House Director” is nothing if not an excuse to see how much optimistic fun the band could have with a brass section without turning into a fully fledged oompah outfit.
It explains too, the slightly more erratic pace and range of sounds assembled here – having been off the radar for almost half a decade, the band seems positively bursting at the seams with ideas for songs, with the record shifting between playfully catchy, percussion driven numbers like “Texico Bitches” and “Meet Me In The Basement” to the warbly sweetness of “All to All” and “Sweetest Kill” with an easy grace. Yet perhaps the biggest change here is the waned post-rock influence of Do Make Say Think that colored their previous work: Where once upon a time the Scene approached their softer side with air of wondering, wide eyed exuberance, the very confidence that Rock Record exudes finds that even at their most delicate, the band are intent on pushing their ideas to the furthest point of articulation, rather than letting the music wash over like they used too. Guitar lines still sparkle and voices still strain, but the accent, when it falls, gives songs as endearingly titled as “Sentimental X’s” a force that hasn’t always been present in the band’s back catalog. It’s not that the band have lost or gained anything, just... changed. Ultimately though, Forgiveness Rock Record is simply evidence of the fact that Broken Social Scene are still very much kings and queens of a world they helped create - evidence that, that for all the imitators, admirers and lovers that the Scene have spawned, that for every person whose ever said ‘Hey, let’s try do what Broken Social Scene are doing’, the band’s reply has simply been, and always will be: ‘let’s do better than that’.