Forgiveness Rock Record is Really Fucking Good

As a band, Broken Social Scene is like that really brilliant student in your class who occasionally, mid-book report, takes you on an agonizing detour from the salient facts into a windy labyrinth of shit that he or she thinks is really fascinating but which is, in fact, boring as all hell. That was for all you teachers out there. To stay with the metaphor, though, the best Broken Social Scene songs are amazing and the worst will leave you scratching your head and saying, “What the fuck am I listening to?” and not in that interesting, Captain Beefheart kind of way.

But seriously, Broken Social Scene (BSS, for you overly acronym-happy people out there) is fucking amazing when they’re on and when they’re not on, well, they range from interesting to infuriatingly long-winded. I don’t want to make a distinction between accessible/not-accessible because I think it makes bands sound like aloof elitists, which – granted – some bands are (*cough* Interpol *cough*). Broken Social Scene is plenty “accessible” – they’re a fucking rock band and to prove it, they’ve released an album helpfully entitled Forgiveness Rock Record. It’s not a Forgiveness Post-Rock Record or a Forgiveness Shoegaze Record (thank dog for that), but a nicely layered, mostly expertly performed rock record.

Does it rock? Hell yes, it rocks! Right out of the gate. Unlike Broken Social Scene’s previous two albums, where it took some sorting to get the wheat and chaff into distinct piles (I know You Forgot It In People was pretty awesome, but it’s okay to love it and also admit that it has a tendency to meander), Forgiveness Rock Record cuts right to the chase with lovingly layered instrumental parts propping up some truly excellent melodies. It’s as though, after two records, Broken Social Scene has decided that it’s okay for your song to have an actual chorus. Although it should surprise no one that a band that features Metric’s Emily Haines  is good at crafting pop songs. Forgiveness Rock Record, a longish fourteen tracks, makes its length forgivable by boasting the likes of “World Sick,” “Texico Bitches” (my current favorite. It’s really too bad “BP” doesn’t fit the rhyme scheme) and “All to All” – and that’s just the first half of the album.

At this point, I have to wonder if I’m aided in my love of this Broken Social Scene record by being blissfully ignorant of the solo/side projects of most of Broken Social Scene’s members. I know Feist’s stuff (it’s okay) and Emily Haines’s stuff both with Metric and Soft Skeleton (she, by the way, has to have one of the best voices in music. Listen to Fantasies and argue otherwise. I’ll call you names, a little trick known as the Christopher Hitchens Standard Debate Tactic), but I don’t really know what Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning’s albums sounded like. Wait, I did listen to the Brendan Canning album; it bored me to tears. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I benefit from not knowing (or much caring) what makes Broken Social Scene an indie rock supergroup. Besides, they weren’t an indie rock supergroup when they started – they were a bunch of friends who liked playing music and made an album together. Luckily for us, that album was You Forgot It In People but unfortunately, it was followed with the musical identity-crisis that was Broken Social Scene, an album that saw the band kinda lose their sense of humor and their sense of play, two elements that I think are essential to good Broken Social Scene music. The musicians in this band are so talented that they can throw out a lot of musical ideas, different rhythms, textures, and dynamics, and still – on their good stuff – come up with something that sounds relatively loose. I hate using the term “collective” to describe a band, but Broken Social Scene’s best moments make that tag sound less ridiculous.

Forgiveness Rock Record never really missteps, although the instrumental “Meet Me in the Basement” is too long (I know it’s not quite four minutes long, but it needs to be not quite two minutes long). Still, “Meet Me in the Basement” is tolerable because it represents, to me, a band that is playing in every sense of the word. When you play like that, sometimes you stumble onto pure musical bliss (“Art House Director” is just wall-t0-wall fun. If I were making you a mix CD for this summer, I’d put “Art House Director” on it. But I’m not gonna do that. Unless you ask me real nice) and sometimes you don’t quite get around to anything, but Broken Social Scene seems to have lost any reason they had to not swing for the fences every time out. Good thing, too – I realize this might be indie blasphemy but, start to finish, Forgiveness Rock Record is Broken Social Scene’s best album. It’s so good that I just want to pretend it’s the one that came after You Forgot It In People.

I realize it sounds like I hated Broken Social Scene, but I assure you I don’t hate that album. To hate something requires an excitement of energy that Broken Social Scene just couldn’t inspire. I literally don’t remember a goddamn thing about that album and, as I listen to Emily Haines knock “Sentimental X’s” out of the fucking park while I write this, I don’t miss anything about Broken Social Scene’s second record.

At the end of the day, Forgiveness Rock Record does what I suspect a lot of bands wish their music could do: it has a broad scope without ever sounding like it’s trying to have a broad scope. It’s arty, indie, poppy, topical, and, just in time for your summer mix CDs and makeout parties, a helluva lot of fun. If “indie” were ever to become a legitimate genre tag for an actual style of music (and who honestly gives a fuck if that happens?), that style might best be exemplified by bands like Yo La Tengo and Broken Social Scene, bands that can meld different styles of rock and pop into something that transcends classfication beyond the words “good music.” But they can have that debate over at Pitchfork; what’s really important here is that Forgiveness Rock Record is really fucking good. So if your friend who can’t read Bollocks! at work (where do they work, a coal mine? China? God help ’em if they work in a Chinese coal mine) asks you to sum up my review of the new Broken Social Scene album in seven words or less, just say, “Forgiveness Rock Record is really fucking good.”

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2 thoughts on “Forgiveness Rock Record is Really Fucking Good

  1. Pingback: The Worst Songs I Have Ever Heard #11: “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” « Bollocks!

  2. Jesus, I agree with virtually everything you write on this blog. One of us is goddamn redundant.

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