Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record

RIYL: Arcade Fire, Secret Machines, and the 80 other bands that can be linked to Broken Social Scene

My promo copy of Forgiveness Rock Record doesn’t have linear notes, so I can’t list who is in this incarnation of Broken Social Scene. I read claims that over 30 musicians make appearance on the record, which sounds about right. What are they all doing? Heck if I know. There’s a horn section, a few different kinds of keyboards, a multitude of string instruments, and a ton of other stuff. If someone told me that Broken Social Scene had a dedicated triangle player at this point I would believe them. The don’t sound “big” per se; I would reserve that descriptor for prog rock or bombastic groups like Muse. They sound “large.” So much so that it might be time for a diet.

This is a very good record, but sometimes it feels like it’s good in spite of itself. It’s great that Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning were able to gather damn near everyone in the Toronto area to record a record, but after a while the songs almost get lost in all the chaos. “Chase Scene” starts off as a quirky upbeat number with a great retro synth sound, but by the time it’s over the multitude of strings, backing vocals and pounding drums that nearly all sense of melody is lost. I bet it sounds amazing live, but its a bit much within the confines of a CD.

Maybe it’s for the best though, because slower, quiet tracks like “Highway Slipper Jam” are dull and lifeless. Other songs are just too damn goofy, but it’s hard to hold that against a group who had a song called “Handjobs for the Holidays” on their previous album. Still, that number sounds downright serious next to “Me and My Hand,” a somber ballad that is seemingly a love song about self-love. It’s not as funny as you might think. And the lyrics to “Texico Bitches,” which repeat that horrible title ad nauseum, are so brain-damagingly stupid that they pretty much ruin the song. Inversely, the entirely instrumental “Meet Me in the Basement” is by far the best song on the album, and is one of the few cases where their glorious over-production works perfectly, peaking in a climax of horns, strings, drums most likely every other instrument the group was able to rent that afternoon

Despite the magnificent highs that the album occasionally reaches, this is Broken Social Scene’s most uneven collection to date. Maybe its time that Canning and Drew limit the number of their friends that they’ll allow in this collective and instead work on collecting some memorable melodies. (Arts & Crafts 2010)

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