Monday, May 17, 2010

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Part 2 of our Canadian double-bill features Broken Social Scene, a similar group of Canadian musical artists to New Pornographers--with one major difference: New Pornos band members were already "famous" when they started their supergroup; BSS became famous after forming the collective. I don't think many people knew who Feist was before You Forgot it in People.

So this is technically the 4th BSS album, but the first is practically a moot point (i.e. same goes for Deerhunter, or Sunset Rubdown for that matter). The 2nd, You Forgot it in People, and the 3rd, Broken Social Scene, are debatable masterpieces. The size of the group seemed to swell as time went on.

Apparently they were about to break up after their last album, so the title of this one is appropriate. It's also worth noting that both Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning put out solo albums in the interim underneath the "BSS presents" banner. They toured with many members of the band each time, so it's not like it's really been four years since there's been any new music from these guys.

And while I haven't heard the Canning solo album, it's quite clear that Forgiveness Rock Record is better than Drew's Spirit If...(by no means a bad album, just one that often bores--though it does aim for a different mark), but also quite clear that Forgiveness Rock Record is the worst thing they've done since their debut.

Maybe that's a mean way of saying it, but it's the way I feel. Sure, "World Sick" is a pretty good first single, but it's not all that satisfying. "Chase Scene" (which tops out the set with 14 members playing on it) is probably my favorite song, and it seems more like a left-field experiment than a potential radio hit. "Texico Bitches" sounds exactly like something off Spirit If... not a bad thing, but kind of uninteresting for the same reason.

"Forced to Love" is probably my second favorite song, probably the only thing that sounds like classic BSS on this album. "Art House Director" could be a great song in the same way that "World Sick" could be a great song--like, it is apparently, but somewhere in the execution it falls flat. "Meet Me in the Basement" would be the best song on the album if it had lyrics. "Water in Hell" is the track second-most like classic BSS, thus my third favorite.

It's complicated to discuss my idiosyncratic beliefs about Canadian indie rock supergroups, but I do believe that BSS and New Pornos shared the same high in 2003 and have stuck around largely because of that early buzz. For my money, the self titled Broken Social Scene album of 2006 is their best single statement and it's going to be a very tough one to top--but live....

This is why I put these posts together on the same day: BSS are at least 2x as good as the New Pornos live. I've seen them three or four times. Only once was I vaguely disappointed. I am sure that live, these songs will be given new life. Kevin Drew is becoming increasingly iconoclastic. While I wish there were more signs of his obsession with Dinosaur Jr. on this album, I'll greatly look forward to seeing this band at the Pitchfork festival this summer. If it doesn't sell out by Memorial Day, at least.

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