Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

They have raised the bar yet again,

Someone tell us what the hell the album title means, please. We’d love to know, as we don’t have the foggiest what ‘forgiveness rock’ is. Broken Social Scene are inventive, sure, but to say they’ve created an an entirely new genre would be a bit much, right? However, we can forgive them for this (the pun wasn’t intentional - honest!). If you go away for five years and then reappear with a rather daunting level of hype building behind your comeback, nothing bar the spectacular will suffice. The Canadian collective (basically a who’s who of the indie scene over there) have delivered in spades, and produced what is arguably their best album yet.

While there were two releases since the group’s last record (2005’s self-titled, their third), both were issued under the Broken Social Scene Presents… moniker: in other words, Brendan Canning (‘Something For All Of Us’) and Kevin Drew’s (‘Spirit If…’) albums were solo ventures by another name. They were good, but it was clear there was something missing. We wanted BSS back - and now here they are. For starters, the production is absolutely perfect. Completely unpredictable and flat-out bizarre in places, it suits the record’s sound perfectly. ‘Forgiveness Rock Record’ is lengthy (over an hour) and ambitious, but there is not a single dud present.

Opener ‘World Sick’ begins proceedings gently, coasting in with an infectious melody that immediately signals the album’s intentions. It briefly morphs into something resembling a more grandiose The Killers around the five-minute mark, before fading just as quickly. It’s seven minutes long, but not a second is wasted. Diversity has always been their strong point, and it’s business as usual in that department. Each of the fourteen tracks on offer here are refreshingly different from each other. Synths and strings propel ‘Chase Scene’ as it rushes along at breakneck speed; ‘Texico Bitches’ features a wonderfully summery, instantly memorable guitar line; lead single ‘Forced To Love’ sees a flute provide the main hook, as it’s underpinned by an insanely tight rhythm section and boosted further by guitars. We could go on, you know.

As always with Broken Social Scene, there are times here when the chaos of their undefinable sound is joined by beauty, and such is the case with ‘All To All’. One of the tracks that features female lead vocals (courtesy of newcomer Lisa Lobsinger from Reverie Sound Revue), it quickly establishes itself as one of the album’s highlights when a heartwrenching violin melody enters halfway through - something reminiscent of such bands as Arcade Fire. It kicks off ‘Forgiveness Rock Record”s vital five-song run, followed as it is by one of the songs of the year: ‘Art House Director’, one of the best songs Apostle of Hustle never wrote. The song is driven by horns that have the ability to take up permanent residence in your head. It’s as catchy as any of their more pop-oriented songs (every bit as good as ‘7/4 (Shoreline)’), and would be a hit single in an ideal world.

The summery vibes are again present on ‘Highway Slipper Jam’. Disregarding the fact that the song opens with vocals that, shall we say, are an acquired taste, it soon slips into a wonderfully groovy, acoustic guitar-led piece that quickly redeems itself. its worst moment may seem its most memorable on initial listens, but it opens up with time. ‘Ungrateful Little Father’ sees the band out-Modest Mouse-ing Modest Mouse for half its length, before taking one of the album’s many unexpected U-turns and indulging in ambience for the other half. Perhaps the greatest irony evident is that there isn’t much rock to be heard on ‘Forgiveness Rock Record’. This band doesn’t plug it in and turn it up half as much as it should, something that’s made quite obvious by how blistering the much-anticipated instrumental ‘Meet Me In The Basement’ is. It sounds rather a lot like British Sea Power did on some of the more widescreen parts of ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’, but puts them to shame. They also come off sounding like Pavement on penultimate track ‘Water In Hell’. More of this next time please, folks.

Then we move into more laid-back territory. ‘Sentimental X’s’ is simple yet effective (though some might prefer ‘directionless and meandering’) There’s something rather addictive about that melody, which combines with Lobsinger’s vocals to push the song into dream-pop territory. It’s the ace in the pack. The mid-tempo, bass-driven ‘Sweetest Kill’ slows things down considerably, before the lengthy instrumental intro of ‘Romance To The Grave’ picks things up and builds on a gentle swell of orchestration and understated rhythms. After the raucousness of ‘Water In Hell’, the album finishes with ‘Me And My Hand’, the most relatively sparse song present: just a guitar, vocals and strings. It’s strange that Broken Social Scene should choose to end the record with a whimper and not with a bang (‘It’s All Gonna Break’, anyone?’) but it serves its purpose just as well.

Sprawling and ambitious (and not just a little epic in places), this is quite possibly the most welcome return we could have expected. The break has worked wonders for the band. Due to them being a supergroup in all but name, it may be a while before we hear anything from them again - but no matter. They have raised the bar yet again, and this is more than enough for now.

Tags: Broken Social Scene, Reviews, Album Reviews

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