Broken Social Scene: A Band Profile


First things first (I’ve always been concerned a little by that phrase, where else would first things be?), the Pitchfork Project is delayed until I actually do it. My weekend was not spent listening to the albums as promised, but instead it was spent being in Portsmouth, listening to copious amounts of Radiohead and recklessly winning at air hockey. Most of the following was written whilst on the train back, which I noticed to be a productive activity. I have done my piece on The Avalanches’ Since I Left You, and I now know the sort of writing my finished work will look like. Don’t expect it any time soon, as I have plenty of other ideas to get through, and now I’ve returned to uni lectures I’ll have many, many less hours for lofty pursuits such as this.

As you may have ascertained from the subtle title of this post, I am going to do a band profile of Broken Social Scene, a 00s band fronted by Kevin Drew and backed by a number of multi-instrumentalists who rotate regularly. They have released three albums, whilst members of the group have also released solo albums, two under the moniker “Broken Social Scene Presents…”, and they have scheduled a forth release for spring of next year.

I have listened only to their two most widely-regarded and recent albums, 2003’s “You Forgot It In People”, which was followed in 2005 by an eponymous album. However, I feel like I have a good impression of what they are about, and although I lack knowledge of their goings-on outside of these two albums, I am confident I can still convey a good sense of their style to the interested but uninitiated.

Broken Social Scene write calming, multi-faceted melodies that lie at the more serene end of indie-rock. The lilting guitar lines and lulling, underplayed vocals combine to create a sense of purpose and direction. Regularly the tracks are shaped around a single simple riff, that drones relentlessly as the band add surrounding layers, that lead gracefully towards more complex finales. The style could be compared to post-rock, but it is on the whole busier. The sounds also sometimes play off the garage rock revival scene, only doing so, however, in the most inventive and least angst-ridden ways.

The reptitiveness that does exist is used effectively as it comes with the sense that is perpetually rising to a climax. There are times when the road to this ending is overlong, but the soothing tones mean that although the weaker tacks may tend towards the dull, the quality remains appreciable and the mood hypnotising. The percussion is punchy and is sometimes the centrepiece, but it still feels like it balances well with the more tranquil aspects of the music. There is a lot of skill to combining multiple, competing tracks, and it is pulled off seamlessly, most expertly on “7/4 (Shoreline)”, a gorgeous track that livens up its surrounding tracks with formidable drumming and a beautiful floating line that leads towards a brutish, larger-than-life ending.

That they do not rely on vocals and lyrics to carry the individual tracks is brave and would not work for many bands, but Broken Social Scene are not one of those bands. What is even more impressive is that when the time comes to give the vocals centre-stage it is done sweetly, particularly on the wonderful slow-burner “Lover’s Spit”. The rarity of the voice-led songs make them seem even more efficacious. A mixture of styles are performed capably over the two albums I have heard, but no style is left without a satisfyingly calming edge that puntuates the unique feel.

A problem I do have with Broken Social Scene is that they do not seem to judge pace or length well. The slowly-rising melodies that are a signature of their music would lend themselves well to a 40 – 45 minute record, but not so well to the 63 minutes of their self-titled album, the main culprit being the superfluous 10-minute closing track “It’s All Gonna Break”. However, if you have already fallen for their well-polished brand of alternative rock, you probbaly won’t complain about a quarter-hour excess of their music.

Anyway that is all I have to give at the moment on the subject of this particular band. Seeing as I only recently discovered them and have not heard all their albums or followed them as closely as the more die-hard fans would have done, I am confident then when it comes to writing a more extensive profile of one of my favourite bands it’ll be a lot easier.

(My two current projects are to organise and write short reviews of my favourite 25 (possibly 30) albums of the decade and to write ten analyses for Pitchforks Top 10 Albums of the 00s. These will both definitely be done before the end of the decade, but my originl intention of publishing them soon will not stand).

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About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

2 Responses to Broken Social Scene: A Band Profile

  1. Tom says:

    You only won by one point.
    and i kicked your arse at everything else.
    except that one song on dance dance revolution, which you most certainly beat me on.
    but you dont talk of burnout, or tekken do you?
    huh, huh?!!

    • Alex Pavitt says:

      ok, lets get things accurate.
      you beat me at burnout.
      i beat you at air hockey, dance dance revolution and the penalty shoot-out game.
      i think everything is now in order…

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