I wasn’t initially excited in the build-up to the release of Forgiveness Rock Record. Much ado was made about this being Broken Social Scene’s first album since 2005’s self-titled effort, but when you consider that in the past five years we’ve received albums from Metric, Feist, Apostle of Hustle, Jason Collett, Stars, the two “Broken Social Scene Presents…” albums from Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, as well as music from countless other members, it feels like Broken Social Scene never really went away. My mood changed when this year’s concert on Toronto Island was announced, and ‘World Sick’ started hitting the airwaves. I started wondering what getting the band back together would accomplish this time around.
Logistically, a new album would be an ordeal to write and record, with nearly every member of the band having their own successful main project. Perhaps out of necessity, the core line-up has been pared down to seven members. Nearly everyone from the past shows up in minor roles throughout the album, in addition to special guests like Spiral Stairs and Sebastien Grainger, but the core group is what carries it. Perhaps the most apparent change is Lisa Lobsinger of Reverie Sound Revue supplanting Feist (who only provides backing vocals on two tracks) as Broken Social Scene’s resident songstress. Lobsinger has been touring with the group for years, but she makes the best of her official debut, particularly with ‘All to All’. John McEntire serves as producer and drummer for the album. Knowing only his work in The Sea and Cake, I can say he brings a focus here that was lacking in the chaos that was Broken Social Scene. As a result, the album isn’t as bombastic as its predecessors, preferring a more chilled out vibe.
In keeping with previous outings, everyone is given their chance to shine. The Apostle of Hustle himself, Andrew Whiteman, takes the lead on ‘Art House Director’, which is packed to the brim with horns. Emily Haines’ guest spots are usually a high point of Broken Social Scene albums and ‘Sentimental X’s’ is no exception. Backed by Amy Millan and Feist, Haines once again gives a magnificently understated performance. Those looking for sing-alongs on this album can look no further than ‘Texico Bitches’ or ‘Water in Hell’. The latter is particularly reminiscent of ‘It’s All Gonna Break’, and would serve as an ideal closer, were it not for the ode to masturbation that is ‘Me and My Hand’. Apparently ‘Handjobs for the Holidays’ wasn’t enough.
I normally avoid mentioning bonus material with regards to an album, but Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights presents a special case. As a bonus EP available to those who preordered the album, these are ten songs in the style of ‘Me and My Hand’: brief, atmospheric studio experiments recorded during downtime, often lacking vocals, as a way to keep the creative juices flowing during the recording process. It serves as an interesting complement to the LP.
Following You Forgot It in People and Broken Social Scene is no easy task, but somehow Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and company managed to get it together and create something that can stand beside those two albums.
Tags: Broken Social Scene