Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm like the beat of the hurt

Forgiveness Rock Record
Broken Social Scene

I think that Broken Social Scene is one of the most interesting, creative, and powerful bands of the last decade. I blogged about their superb concert a couple of years ago, and their previous albums were always in my top five year-end lists. So I was of course very excited when I got the new BSS album, Forgiveness Rock Record, earlier this year.

Much has been made in other articles and reviews about this being a more "song-based" album than previous endeavors. As a large music collective, BSS has created long and sprawling soundscapes of noise, and the new album. As one review notes, "the band enlisted Tortoise's John McEntire to step behind the boards, and the contrast is striking. It's still very much a Broken Social Scene album, but one that's nowhere near as dense or as heavy. The melodies have more room to breathe, the amplifiers never sound ready to explode . . ." I guess I agree with this assessment, and the band also enlists its usual cast of contributors, including Emily Haines (from Metric), Amy Millan (from Stars), Feist, and some new additions as well, including Sam Prekop (The Sean & Cake). And the rest of the band, including Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Andrew Whiteman (the Apostle of Hustle), and Lisa Lobsinger, trade jobs throughout the records. All of this adds up to a great album, and instead of talking about the technical aspects, I'm just going to talk about some songs that I just love listening to.

My Favorite Songs from Forgiveness Rock Record
Album opener "World Sick" really sets a kind of political, kind of depressing, very rockin' tone for this album. After a cool opening guitar solo, Kevin Drew begins the album's lyrics with "We got a minefield of crippled affection." Then he informs us that he gets "world sick every time he takes a stand." Cheery stuff, Kevin. But the layers of guitars plus the prominent cymbals all combine for a melodious mishmash of listening pleasure.

"Texico Bitches" stands as the poppiest, catchiest song on the album. Now a brief word about the title: though the song title is spelled "Texico," the official lyrics spell the word "Texaco" throughout the song (and trust me, the phrase Texaco Bitches gets repeated a lot). I do not know the reason for this discrepancy, except maybe the band wanted oil company executives to think the song was about women from the Southwest, instead of a strange condemnation of the oil industry. At least I think that's what it's about--BSS are not know for having the most easy to interpret lyrics. No matter--this song is awesome. A bit dancey, a lot catchy, and full of "Ooooh!"

"Forced to Love" is sort of a regular rock song--it has choruses, a bridge, soaring guitar solos, etc. A very compact (non-BSS?) bit of rock excellence.

"All to All" might be my favorite song on Forgiveness Rock Record. The song features an electronic background sound that is slightly tube-like--perhaps a little Blue Man Group. But the star of the show is Lisa Lobsinger's beautiful voice, paired with Amy Millan and Feist on back-ups. "All to All" is a gorgeous, slight spacey, kind of ethereal song that is simply a joy to listen to.

The next song is a strange little number called "Art House Director," and the song tells a silly little story about movie making. Whiteman takes over the lead vocals here, but the horns and layers of guitars make this a super-solid BSS song. In fact, the horns might even be the stars of this song, with a fantastic combination of trumpets and low brass dominating the music. "The starlet is a harlot, and she will not leave her trailer. She says that you betrayed her with a surfer form Australia." What? No matter.

"Highway Slipper Jam" is quintessential down-tempo BSS. That's all I have to say about that.

The women take back over on "Sentimental X's" and the result is another harmonic convergence of delight. The band is doing some interesting things with guitars in this song, creating a cool dichotomy between the voices and the plucks and twangs. A lot of stuff is going on in this song, and it really rewards multiple listens.

And a surprising favorite of mine is a hard-rocking instrumental song called "Meet Me in the Basement." This pulsing and pounding guitar and drum number would be truly anthemic in the right venue, and I cannot wait to see them live again. I love the two different parts of the song and the way they interact with each other. Recently, a fan made a mash-up video featuring this song, inspired by the media's coverage (or non-coverage) of the G-20 summit, and the band has endorsed this as the "official video."

What the new album reinforces is what a complex and talented band Broken Social Scene is. Forgiveness Rock Record may not be what I expected from Broken Social Scene, but I don't why I would expect anything other than that.

Have a copy of a couple of my favorites:


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