Under Review: Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Let me get this straight:  Are Broken Social Scene really in need of offering forgiveness, or do they intend for us to forgive them?  I mean, the monolithic collective has made themselves an indispensable cornerstone of the modern indie scene, and without even releasing music on a regular basis.  Their elusiveness has no doubt earned them as many intrigued fans as their actual music, which can be a bit difficult to get into at first.  Perhaps the very irregularity of their releases is what makes the group so unusual.  While changes in a particular band’s sound are easily traced on albums released every (or every other) year, a four or five year break offers a lot of time for the members to explore new things.  With the immense roster that BSS boasts, that adds up to a hell of a lot of ideas.  In fact, it makes sense that BSS albums are so eclectic and infrequent.  You try getting a couple dozen busy musicians together to make a record and see if it doesn’t take you five years.  I guess that Broken Social Scene hasn’t got much to apologize for, since Forgiveness Rock Record is pretty great.  The album takes all that the individual members have been working on in their own bands and projects, and combines them into an album that is at once mournful and empowering, forgiving and callous.

Forgiveness Rock Record doesn’t get off to that rocking of a start, but that’s not to suggest that “World Sick” is a bore.  It’s a slow-churning stage setter, and a fine one at that.  The hooky guitar line and Kevin Drew’s exhausted vocals indeed evoke a kind of weariness that such restless performers can easily describe.  The album does shift into “rock record” territory here and there, with the kraut-y “Chase Scene” and “Meet Me In The Basement” (one of a number of fantastic instrumentals on FRR) being some of the most extroverted moments.  As fans of the band’s previous output know, Broken Social Scene revels in more hushed and bucolic sounds, and the Emily Haines-led “Sentimental X’s” is this album’s best contribution to that side of the band.  Forgiveness Rock Record also offers a few songs that are, well, let’s go with “quirky.”  The tropical “Art House Director,” the bouncy “Ungrateful Little Father” and the more-fun-than-it’s-probably-meant-to-be “Texico Bitches” all make Forgiveness Rock Record a continually entertaining patchwork of an album.  Like the Broken Social Scene itself, Forgiveness Rock Record functions best as a whole.  While its separate parts may sufficiently impress, its real rewards come only when those parts are allowed to coalesce.  I’m sure you’d be forgiven if you need a few listens to take all that in.

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~ by E. on May 5, 2010.

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