Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
One of the lasting cultural legacies of music in the 2000’s will probably be just how big indie rock got for a while. On everything from Sufjan Steven’s seminal Illinois to the grandly realized Neon Bible to the enormous twee-pop of I’m From Barcelona and the Up With People-esque cult of Polyphonic Spree; for at least one part of the subculture, music got really lush, band’s grew in size, horns and string sections became fashionable and music just got really, really big. That impulse continues to this day, so apologies if this sounds like a postmortem on indie musical vastness, however, with their newest release Forgiveness Rock Record, one of the main progenitors of that movement, Broken Social Scene, has taken a diagonal turn towards getting a little bit smaller.
Broken Social Scene has always traded in their own brand of just barely contained chaos, a collective of musicians from Toronto for whom BSS was never intended to be a primary project. That is, with the exception of Kevin Drew and Brandon Canning who always represented the bands spiritual core. Following solo albums by Drew and Canning under the banner Broken Social Scene presents… (The brilliant Spirit If… and the plodding Something For All of Us, respectively), they have reformed BSS proper but as more of a solid and pared down band rather than a sprawling collective.
Forgiveness Rock Record reflects that new focus on manageability inherent in the band’s new solidified lineup. There’s still a lot going on, but the reverb and echo have been turned down; there’s probably 2 guitars going on at any given moment rather than 5 and you’re more likely to hear synth work than strings or a horn section.
Rock Record is ambitious, but in a manner that’s fundamentally less creative way than the band’s previous efforts. The title is certainly appropriate as it, at it’s heart, is more like a straight “rock record.” In that regard, it represents a fine addition as Broken Social Scene turns out to be a great straight rock band – I would say this stands right up next to anything the Hold Steady or Spoon have released in their roots-purity stages. The downside is, though, that this album just feels more average and less vital than either 2005’s Broken Social Scene or 2002’s You Forgot It in People. There’s less of the futzing around inherent in a band’s experimentations and in that regard, it’s more solid on balance but the transcendent moments are decidedly lacking.
As far as trade-offs go, losing exuberance for maturity is not always bad. This is still a large and beautiful and yeah, fun record. If you’re nitpicking a band for tightening their still tremendous songwriting abilities, well then that band is still pretty good, isn’t it?
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on 2010-04-30 dscanland Said:
Hey Matthew, This Broken Social Scene review is by far your best yet. Good work. Keep up the great writing. I'm off to find the album now...