Broken Social Scene are a very unusual band. A huge cast of musicians participate on this record in a democratic process that leaves the producers with a lot of work to do, trying to make sense of what can often sound like two or three songs playing at the same time. The result, on some of their more conventional indie tracks, is a cross between the laconic daze of Dinosaur Jnr and the warped intensity of My Bloody Valentine. However, they also excel at jazzy post-rock and – on this record – Prince-style R&B!
Whereas the overcrowded, shape-shifting production was a principle factor of their last (great) record ‘You Forgot it in People’, on this record it entirely defines it. Songs and melodies slip in and out of focus, revealing little galaxies of blurred notes and voices beyond the principal ‘song’ structures, time-signatures trip and flip; at moments it sounds like you are stuck between stations on an analogue radio dial.
The album opens with a the jazzy, shimmering alt-rock of ‘Our faces split the coast in half’, with a moody Bernard Hermann-style brass section and half-submerged vocals that sound like something sampled for a DJ Shadow record. Picking up where ‘Pacific Theme’ left off on the last record, this is one of the best tracks for me. ‘Ibi dreams of pavement (a better day)’ is one of their more raucous moments while ’7/4 (shoreline)’ is this album’s ‘Almost Crimes’, an anthemic, sonic crowd-pleaser with Leslie Feist at the helm. ‘Finish your collapse and stay for breakfast’ is electronic noodling while ‘Major label debut’ show their more twee indie sensibilities. ‘Fire Eye’d Boy’ is another one to satisfy the indie kids, a fine piece of pop-hookery, but then it gets more interesting. ‘Windsurfing Nation’ is an unusual rock / r’n'b hybrid centring around the repeated mantra ‘All we want is freedom’ and even includes a short rap at the end, to great effect. ‘Hotel’ is off-kilter downbeat r’n'b, a kind of tripped-out ‘Lover’s Rock’ and the album’s most singular moment.
There are other moments of merit to mention, but some editing would not have hurt – in particular the inconsequentially long closer ‘Its All Gonna Break’. The bonus EP isn’t much cop either, sounding more like outtakes than a record in its own right, and isn’t worth spending any extra cash on.