Wednesday 20 September 2017

Music: Broken Social Scene * * *

Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

John Meagher

John Meagher

Arcade Fire opened the floodgates to Canadian music in the middle years of the past decade and helped shine the spotlight on the likes of Stars, Metric and Feist.

But discerning fans had already been alerted to what was happening in the Great White North, thanks to Broken Social Scene, whose floating membership includes Leslie Feist and personnel from Stars, Metric and a host of other bands.

The collective's second album, 2002's You Forgot it in People, was hailed as an instant classic upon release thanks to its life-affirming rock, and 2005's self-titled follow-up attracted yet more purple prose.

In the meantime, principal members and co-vocalists Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew released patchy, stop-gap albums under the Broken Social Scene Presents ... moniker, but as this is a BSS album proper, expectations have been high.

When one considers the depth of talent among the 20-odd collaborators -- and the production gifts of Tortoise's John McEntire -- it's hardly surprising that there are some very fine moments here. Yet, the surprisingly large number of half-baked and uninspired songs leave much to be desired.

First, the good stuff. Opener World Sick offers the sort of textured, ambient exercise in noise that BSS have made a trademark.

Even better is Chase Scene -- an exhilarating rock out featuring shouty vocals of Feist, Stars' Amy Millan and Metric's Emily Haines.

Then there's the lovely Sentimental X's, replete with soothing singing from Haines.

Best of the bunch is All to All. Mellow and soulful at first before dissolving into a cacophonous uplifter, it features relative newcomer Lisa Lobsinger on vocals and boasts playful electronica and strings.

It's a standard that BSS are unable to maintain. Lead single Forced to Love may boast a catchiness to bait radio playlisters, but it fails to reach the highs of previous singles such as the blistering 7/4 Shoreline.

Occasionally, the lack of innovation is palpable -- Me and My Hand would be rejected by most bands as not being of B-side standard. Elsewhere, the most likely response is "meh". Step forward Romance to the Grave and Water in Hell.

Despite its stronger moments, Forgiveness Rock Record rarely feels as breathtaking as previous BSS albums do, and for those of us who had perhaps unreasonably elevated expectations, that's a crushing disappointment.

Burn it: Chase Scene; All to All.

Irish Independent

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