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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene


1) Our Faces Split The Coast In Half; 2) Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day); 3) 7/4 (Shoreline); 4) Finish Your Collapse And Stay For Breakfast; 5) Major Label Debut; 6) Fire Eye'd Boy; 7) Windsurfing Nation; 8) Swimmers; 9) Hotel; 10) Handjobs For The Holidays; 11) Superconnected; 12) Bandwitch; 13) Tremoloa Debut; 14) It's All Gonna Break.

Thousands of minor differences from You Forgot It In People, but hardly a single major one. Apparently, just because the band comprises so many people now, all of them capable of some­how playing off each other, Drew and Canning seem to think that these songs are gonna write themselves. Which sometimes happens if your band comprises genuine geniuses — but in the case of Broken Social Scene, it just comprises a bunch of freshly baked ambitious idealistic bearded pop in­tellectuals, and the last time idealism, intellectualism, ambition, and beard went together with genius was probably circa 1971, with Pete Townshend working on Who's Next.

Once again, sixty minutes into the album I can barely back-focus on anything that I just heard, despite the allegedly tasteful and quite variegated combinations of instruments. The band sets an uplifting, stomping pace, piles up five rhythm parts and seven leads on top of it, adds multi-tracked male or female or androgynous vocals, and then gradually overcharges the motor in order for it to go up in smoke and explode. The chords are loud and bold, the vocals combine high pitch for emotional resonance and breathiness for intellectual depth, and the song titles, as usual, stimu­late you into making new discoveries — such as Canadian writer Ibi (Kaslik). (Not that I will ever find the time to read the lady, but «knowledge is power» all the same).

And that is pretty much it. This time, there is not even a single memorable riff of the ʽCause = Timeʼ variety, and out of all their different grooves, only ʽBandwitchʼ managed to stand out due to a cool «magical-mystery» vocalized loop in the background — which did give it a little bit of a «witchy» flavor, a nice change of pace from the core Springsteenisms. Naturally, one resonant idea on a sixty-mninute album falls well within the scope of chance expectations — I am, in fact, profoundly surprised that there were no others. How hard must it be to write twelve epic pop anthems and be unable to make even one of them stick?

At least the «grand finale», grandly entitled ʽIt's All Gonna Breakʼ, grandly encased in grand power chords and grand romantic posturing, grandly making its grand point in just under 10 grand minutes, should have been satisfactory. But the way I see it, like everything else, it's all «formulaic form» and no interesting substance. Where Arcade Fire would have soaked this thing in aching end-of-the-world desperation, Broken Social Scene remain firmly stuck directly be­tween sad­ness and joy — at point zero, that is. Which is why, when they finally get to the end and wrap it up with a solemn «mock-classical» coda, I do get the urge... to strangle somebody.

For accuracy's sake (as well as extra proof that I did listen carefully to the album, just in case), the start of ʽHotelʼ is not half bad, with a simple, but tough bassline that carries more punch by it­self than any given «loud», «pseudo-symphonic» passage on the rest of the record; ʽFire Eye'd Boyʼ could have been a semi-decent generic indie single if the vocals didn't sound taken from a post-laryngitis recuperating bunch of patients; and ʽWindsurfing Nationʼ has a spoonful of lovely psychedelic guitar licks, barely discernible from under a ton of extra overdubs. But — repeat — this is all just for accuracy's sake. The album as such shows that the critical praise, received by You Forgot It In People, went to someone's head, and if the record is to be evaluated in context, well — it is a further step down, and this time around, I cannot help letting it off with a thumbs down as an impressive heap of pretentious, elaborate, sweet-scented indie garbage.

Check "Broken Social Scene" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Broken Social Scene" (MP3) on Amazon

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