Broken Social Scene
Let's Try the After - Vol. 1


3.0
good

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell CONTRIBUTOR (63 Reviews)
March 4th, 2019 | 22 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The biggest band on the planet: too big for an EP

If nothing else, Broken Social Scene are a larger-than-life presence. Their gargantuan line-up of musicians is so well established at this point that they might as well be known as everyone’s favourite, most wholesome music cult, and the scope of their distinctive brand of indie anthems by way of post rock jams is too wide to be defined by any individual one of their songs. Put it this way: they’re at their best when their combined strength as a collective is most clearly evidenced, and this takes the best part of a whole album given how evenly they spread their talent. That is to say, they are not exactly an EP band.

Let’s Try The After Vol. 1, their follow-up EP to 2017’s Hug of Thunder, is a pleasant addition to the Broken Social Scene’s discography but it does foreground all the issues associated with their sound on short-form releases. To its credit, it does spotlight a fair range of their roster for a release with only four proper tracks (and one short ambient intro). We’re treated to a pseudo-instrumental (featuring lyricless vocals) followed by respective lead vocal performances from Kevin Drew, relative newcomer Ariel Engle and Andrew Whiteman. This variety is very much welcome, but it doesn’t go much further than vocal performances - despite the polyinstrumental nature of these songs, they rarely deviate from the band’s well-established indie rock blueprint.

As such, the whole EP maintains a fairly similar tone from track to track, which is hardly surprising given how adept at sustaining mood and sequencing tracklists Broken Social Scene have continually proven themselves to be. What surprised me, however, was how much closer the mood in question sits to their 2010 release Forgiveness Rock Record than Hug of Thunder. I mean this in somewhat ambivalent terms; Forgiveness for the most part lived up to the second word in its title with some of the band’s most successfully straightforward writing and arrangements to date, but it also held slightly more than its fair share of languid moments. ‘Languid’ is probably the second most important descriptor for Broken Social Scene, after ‘maximalist’. Generally, the two are traded off against each other with great success, but just as the central section of Forgiveness Rock Record went too far off the mark and trimmed down the band’s gloriously over-the-top approach, so too does much of Let’s Try The After Vol. 1.

The clearest example of this and a convenient indicator of almost all Forgiveness’ flaws is the album’s middle track, Boyfriends. Kevin Drew’s voice has been well-suited to some downbeat songs in the past (Major Label Debut and Lover’s Spit spring to mind) but it has also had its share of missteps when taken south of its usual anthemic territory (I’m Still Your Fag and Ungrateful Little Father stand as apparent lowlights on their respective albums). Boyfriends is unfortunately one of the latter category, with its listless drawl and lyricism that sits ambiguously between tongue-in-cheek commentary and smug virtue signalling. It’s not a write-off; the kind of BSS fan who considered Sweetest Kill an album highlight and prefer things at half-speed will likely enjoy this, and the song does boast a deceptively busy mix beyond its dreary hook, with a range of tasteful yet unextravagent synth and guitar licks lurking under the verses. Unfortunately, Boyfriends still comes across as overlong, repetitive and more than a little stagnant.

This doesn’t mar things too much considering that the following song is also the freshest and most surprising, and the definite standout. 1972 is instantly loveable; it oozes indie infectiousness from its opening notes and develops into a series of absolutely fantastic vocal hooks. It’s poppy, even more so than the band’s much loved classic, Anthems For A Seventeen-Year Old Girl from You Forgot It In People. It’s been seventeen years (!!!) since this album, but you would never know it from Ariel Engle’s performance. Strangely, many of her melodies and voicings evoke Lorde circa Pure Heroine in the full strength of her bittersweet apprehension and knowingly melodramatic lyricism, which feels neatly ironic given how Broken Social Scene’s Lover’s Spit earned itself a prominent namedrop on that album’s standout track. Things aren’t quite so straightforward, however, with the final minute pulling a surprise chord change and dipping into a morose instrumental considerably darker than the note of indie nostalgia the song set out on. In many ways, the entire sequencing of Hug of Thunder is mapped out on this song alone, with its saccharine opening, strident mid section and sobering final moments. Whether or not this intentional is beyond me, but 1972 certainly feels appropriate and essential to the state of Broken Social Scene in 2019.

The other two songs fall somewhere in the middle of the road. While it’s definitely in a poppier vein, it’s very surprising to consider that All I Want was released as the single rather than 1972. It’s a neat song that starts out with a catchy beat and distorted bass groove, but it never quite hits its stride in the way the dynamic tradeoff between its rising verses and pared back choruses suggests it might; at the moment the song seems it’s about to take off, it comes to a sudden end and takes the EP with it. Remember Me Young has a little more to it, showing off the band’s knack for well-arranged instrumental jams. It’s hard to pin down any single performer that stands out here, but that’s to its credit; it feels like the most overtly collaborative track here. However, its execution isn’t quite enough to make up for its lack of strong motifs, and so it ends up as a pleasant but somewhat immemorable exercise in atmosphere and arrangement.

In their review of this EP, Pitchfork remarked that Remember Me Young felt like an inversion of You Forgot it In People’s KC Accidental. I have to agree; the song takes its predecessor’s derelict nostalgia and turns it into something less angular, less raw and somewhat more relaxing. Where KC lurched and mused, Remember Me cruises and croons. However, one quality that KC Accidental showed off particularly well is lacking on this EP: Justin Peroff’s drumming, which has always been perhaps the most prominent of Broken Social Scene’s many, many secret weapons, is disappointingly unremarkable here. His performance is certainly tasteful and competent, but I cannot think of a single moment at which the drums momentarily stole the show for me in the way that they so often did on past releases. This is an accurate refection on Let’s Try The After Vol. 1 in general: it’s predominantly downbeat and not exactly disappointing, but far from a good indicator of Broken Social Scene’s full strengths. In any case, let’s stay tuned for Vol. 2…



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3.2
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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


12975 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Giving this a personal 3.5 for how much I love 1972, but realistically this is a safe 3. Still the best band ever...

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theBoneyKing
March 4th 2019


16122 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Agreed, “1972” is fantastic, the rest is just decent.

Digging: Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


14973 Comments


A tiny shadow compared to Hug of Thunder. Great review Johnny!

Digging: Elizabeth Colour Wheel - Nocebo

SandwichBubble
March 4th 2019


9335 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thing's a bore, but I said the same thing about Hug on release so now I'm doubting myself

Digging: Samara Lubelski - In The Valley

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


12975 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cheers Dewi!

Hug was definitely a grower, but it also covered a lot more ground than this tbh

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


8849 Comments


Nicely done my man, good review. "... has a little more too it" was the only flaw I saw (too should be to). Everything else was very well composed and ideas were presented easily.

Digging: Ni - Pantophobie

tcat84
March 4th 2019


1229 Comments


The biggest band on the planet?

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


12975 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@Mars thanks man, all amended; this is why late night drafting is never the best idea lol

@tcat in terms of active membership, they're probably close to if not the biggest band on the planet ngl

Slex
March 4th 2019


6109 Comments


Hot take: Hug of Thunder was as lame as this is

Digging: Shin Guard - 2020

theBoneyKing
March 4th 2019


16122 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like this more than Hug of Thunder tbh.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


14973 Comments


You are both tripping lol

Slex
March 4th 2019


6109 Comments


Album is super duper boring

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


14973 Comments


Second half maaaaybe I can give it to you but first half is amazing.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


14973 Comments


No trying to convince you or anything Slex haha

Slex
March 4th 2019


6109 Comments


It probably doesn't help that I'm not huge on the band on the first places besides YFIIP

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 4th 2019


41391 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

I'm Still Your Fag is one of the best on YFIP, crazy take in this review



I do like this but holding out for a studio version of the song they debuted alongside 1972, shit slapped

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


12975 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Hug of Thunder was a massive grower and one of the best of 2017, y'all are way off

And lol Rowan not even gonna go there... what was the other song they debuted though? Are there any recordings?

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 4th 2019


41391 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

yeah if you look up House of Strombo live someone on Reddit ripped it in good quality. there's another new song called, I think Can't Feel my Heart? with Ariel vocals and it's just crazy good. there's also 3-4 dope covers, they only play like 2 standard BSS songs lol

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
March 4th 2019


12975 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Oooh will check, cheers! Am also morbidly curious to know your YFIP ranking now

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 4th 2019


41391 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

the run from Looks Just Like the Sun to Pitter Patter is literally perfect imo, the stuff before that is great but not on the same level to me. Cause = Time and Anthems are the best ofc



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