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Broken Social Scene - Texico Bitches
Apr 22, 2010
Total plays:
31 times
Why do we like this?
It's been five year since the last full band Broken Social Scene album, and it might just have been worth the wait. The new album is solid and there's more than one hit single within (the hit singles are obvious). While there is definitely some filler, I think this album deserves more than just a couple of listens. The opening song, "World Sick" is almost seven minutes long, and yet, its moments of epic musical swells, followed by quiet found sounds elements make it all worthwhile. It sets quite the stage for what's to come.

There's a reason that "World Sick," "Forced to Love" and "All in All" were the first songs to leak: they carry the album. These are the songs that immediately bring you in. The beauty is in the diversity of their sounds: from the full throttle rollicking leads of Kevin Drew to the toned down hymns of Lisa Lobsinger who sings accompanied by string instrumentation. If those three songs stand out as the clear hit singles, where does that leave the rest of the album?

"Highway Slipper Jam" almost sounds like a Calexico meets Iron&Wine album. "Sentimental X's" excels in its subtle crescendo. For me it gets a little too weird on "Water in Hell", which goes from experimental fuzzy to country hoedown. A standout song on the album is "Meet Me in the Basement," which is pure instrumental rock -- you barely notice the lack of vocals, and when you do, you don't really miss them. The repetitive hook acts as the chorus, and the rises and falls are just enough to keep things interesting. Other songs on the album are less standout, and indeed, some may call them filler.

Broken Social Scene is best known for its collective approach to music making. Previous line-ups have included members from many bands. This time, BSS has whittled themselves down to a core group of six members. Of course, this is BSS, and they wouldn't be complete without cameo appearances from outside musicians -- and the number of rotating musicians still outnumbers their core group. However, it is this newfound leanness that offers more fluidity to their songs, and ultimately the album is more cohesive. There's just one auditory thread here, whereas previous BSS albums were more disjointed, with each rotating member leaving too much of their own stamp, and not enough team to stand behind one sound (Note: Previous albums rocked it, but it was more on a song by song basis. Here, there's at least an attempt at a unified album).

Did BSS lose something when it went from collective to band? Sure. With fewer people come fewer ideas. But with fewer people there can also be more focused ideas. In interviews you can tell that Drew is being careful about how he announces who was involved in this album. This isn't quite a core-group-only set-up, but it almost is. While BSS alumni do make a return to the album, the way they lend their talents might be less obvious. Again, the focus on trimming down, the involvement of a new producer (the album was co-produced by the band and Tortoise's John McEntire), means that it all sounds like it was giving BSS the band, not BSS the collective, some ownership of their music and the ability to say this is our sound, and not just the sound that's lent to us.

I mentioned that there's a more cohesive sound to this album; does that mean they've lost their grit? Well, if you loved BSS for their ultra fuzzy, ragged experimental songs that left you never quite knowing what to expect you might be a little disappointed. This album is definitely more geared towards polished -- maybe it all comes down to being in a better place. The band members have got it together; they've come up with a productive way of approaching the process, and the end result feels like it a little gift that's been packaged with love: you can't wait to see the other person open it (here, clearly, it's BSS who wait to see how the music world savors or ravages their latest release).

That said, they haven't lost their experimental edge. Rather, now it's been rolled into the textures and layers contained within each song (without overdoing it), as was often the thin line which BSS walked in the past. They haven't lost their spacey indie-pop driving harmonies either: a sure way to keep enough of their base, while reaching out to new audiences.

Overall I'm finding that this album is accessible. And while accessible can be likened to going mainstream, it also bears noting that it has been five years, and in five years, inevitably they've grown up. Maybe it's that I'm also a little older than I was when I first heard them: I'm moving past the post-experimental lo-fi [beautiful] messes in favor of gently experimental [if less innovative] refined layerings. I posit that if you give this album its time to sink in, you'll find that most of it does agree with you.

In addition to their new album, BSS has also announced that they will be releasing a digital EP on May 3. The 10-track EP is entitled "Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights." An email sent to BSS fans indicates that their work on the EP became a critical part of balancing their work on the album. "As we continued to work on Forgiveness the B-room became more and more important as both a musical and social outlet - there are a lot of us in Broken Social Scene and it's hard for us to sit on our hands, " writes Charles Spearin. He goes on to say that there was a certain amount of "playfulness and fearlessness" that could go into the EP, in ways that allowed a breather from the album. From these mini-sessions came "Me & My Hand" which ultimately made it onto the Forgiveness album.

And the end of it all I'm left with four words as I reflect on Forgiveness: Truth.Love.Fragility.Bliss.
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