Broken Social Scene
There are a lot of wages to pay in Broken Social Scene. Featuring a raft of contributions from many and varied members of the Canadian music scene, multi-instrumentalist Brendan Canning has orchestrated easily the greatest album so far this year, full of spontaneity and creation, where no two songs sound the same, full of contradiction and originality. With so much talent gathered together, how can you ever agree on ANYTHING? Quite how albums like this ever come together, particularly with such a huge cast of musicians, is staggering. Even more so when the results are so special.
The history of this album shows that it has indeed been laboured over. Originally planned for release in Spring 2005, it was then called "Windsurfing Nation", and was conceived as a politically charged record. However, that project mutated into this album. The band have stated in interviews that this is a personal record about fear, and also resilience, a contrast to their more hopeful second album.
Formed in 1999 by Canning and Kevin Drew, they were quick to adopt a "kitchen sink" mentality, bringing in contacts from the local scene to fill in the gaps in their music. The same is true of the current album, utilizing the talents of members of bands such as Stars, Metric and Feist. Recording was intense, multiple layers and tracks making mixing the album a real challenge. Even agreeing the artwork delayed the release. However, the results are only a few degrees away from perfection. The first time you listen, it is almost too much to take - musical information flooding your head. This is the sort of album that you need to listen to again, and again, and again, mostly because you want to.
Opening track "Our Faces Split the Coast in Half", is a good example of the greatness of this album. It is a wonderful piece of music, snappy bass and brass driving the rhythm forward into the rest of the album. "Ibi Dreams of Pavements" is also superb, the intensity of early Flaming Lips matched with the dreamlike quality of Mercury Rev. The way the song rises between the verses is a sonic treat, layer upon layer of sound building around you. "Fire Eye'd Boy" brings to mind early 90's bands like Chapterhouse, and Pale Saints - dreamlike guitar music, leading into "Windsurfing Nation", a marvellously inventive track of pulsing drums and robotic guitars. "Handjobs for the Holidays" also has that early 90's feel to it, but with a more modern approach, again it is a fantastic piece of invention and creativity.
"Superconnected" is a spirited number, with shades of Sonic Youth and "Its All Gonna Break" is one of the greatest album closers I have heard; it gathers pace as it goes, full of ideas, brass stabs and stacks of talent.
This album comes highly recommended. Sure, it is a challenge the first time you hear it. But if you stick with it, it opens up into an amazing collection of songs, full of originality and verve. There is a lot of good music coming out of Canada at the moment. There also seems to be solidarity between these musicians, and a desire to create good music together. Released the same week as the Arctic Monkeys, this album has more or less been buried. But I believe for many, it is this release that will go down as a classic, to be remembered for many years to come.