Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Broken Social Scene, the Canadian group of groups, is back with their most accessible album yet.

The Broken Social Scene way, due to its ever changing line up of the great and the good of the Canadian music scene, is to jam in the studio, develop songs on the hoof, often expanding on a simple guitar riff or bass line until something more coherent comes out of it.

This produces mixed results, with sometimes crisp singles emerging while at other times tracks can be far less accessible. Always interesting but sometimes too sprawling and messy.

This time around with Forgiveness Rock Record there’s a slightly reduced line up and with producer John McEntire they’ve created something far tidier than previous albums.

Packed with even more potential singles but given to the same flights of fancy, especially in the more eclectic second half. Above all it is still unmistakably Broken Social Scene and a gorgeous listen.

Ever presents Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning are here, as are Charles Spearin, Apostle of Hustle’s Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff, Reverie Sound Review’s Lisa Lobsinger, and Sam Goldberg as the core Broken Social Scene band for the album.

Meanwhile Broken Social Scene stalwarts Leslie Feist, Amy Millan, and Emily Haines, as well as members of Tortoise and Sea & Cake chip in.

The first half of the album is quite remarkable for its consistency, seven glorious potential singles. Opener ‘World Sick’ is where you can hear the Broken Social Scene writing process working away. The guitar riff starts it off as over seven minutes it expands into an epic track.

‘Forced to Love’ is a real highlight as well,  as are the funky horns on ‘Art House Director’ and more tranquil electronica of ‘All to All’, which features lead vocals by Lobsinger.

Track eight ‘Highway Slipper Jam’ marks a change in direction, this acoustic guitar jam, is markedly loose in comparison to the opening half but is no duffer.

The differences continue across the second half.  ‘Ungrateful Little Father’ is where the tone drops, the more experimental side to the band comes out, based around the uncomfortable lyrics of ‘ungrateful motherfuck’. From here on each track is different from the next, but the consistency level only drops off towards the end.

‘Meet Me in the basement’ sounds like those wonderful indie-metal tracks that Fang Island popped out earlier his year, while ‘Sentimental X’ which features Metric’s Emily Haines is a sumptuous piece of pop. Elsewhere, the ballad ‘Sweetest Kill’ is probably the second half’s stand out.

There is a bit of flab that could have done with a bit of gastric-banding. Final tracks ‘Water in Hell’ and ‘Me and My Hand’ are a little over indulgent. Perhaps McEntire was pandering to the band here, after so expertly reining them in on the rest of the album

In many respects Forgiveness Rock Record is Broken Social Scene’s best yet. It’s the most accomplished, most accessible (except for the end). Rest assured though that this is very much the same Broken Social Scene, just with a keener ear on radio play and in the main a  more controlled, directed sense of invention.

8/10

by Joe Lepper, Apr 2010

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