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Broken Social Scene | You Forgot it in People (Arts & Crafts)
Do you ever want to get back to the halcyon days of exciting experimental, accessible, catchy music (I'm thinking 'Daydream Nation', 'Slanted and Enchanted', 'Loveless' here) when - as the old song goes - you could shout "just gimme indie rock" and mean it? If so then this is the album for you. Cutting straight to the chase, this is a phenomenal, triumphant record. On their second album, Toronto's Broken Social Scene, a ten-piece collective drawn from the ranks of Do Make Say Think, A Silver Mt Zion and other like minded souls, have, as their liner notes insist, made "a pop record designed to remind us that music still has room to be recreated". Perhaps unchallenged, maybe even bored, by the constraints and expectations of their art-house, post-rock pedigrees and unified by the desire to create an accessible and experimental pop record they've, well, created an accessible and experimental genre-hopping pop record. As you'd expect from an album made by a supergroup, it's an amalgam of disparate styles, from the Sonic Youth-and-then-some guitar fury of KC Accidental to the dubby Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries, but it still sounds like the work of a cohesive, hugely imaginative band and far from a cynical exercise in tokenism.
Opening track, Capture the Flag, lays a false trail, sounding like a long lost Pink Floyd outtake and ill preparing the listener for the first coruscating blast of KC Accidental, the first of the four out-and-out rockers, though far less linear than that term might suggest. Stars and Sons is insanely catchy, propelled by a Peter Hook-style bassline, handclaps and mumbled lyrics. Almost Crimes is as catchy, with the swathes of roaring guitars augmented by free jazz saxophone and the rousing chorus of "We've got love and hate, it's the only way, I think it's almost crime". Pacific Theme is summery like a marriage of Air and the Go-Betweens; Anthems for a Seventeen Year-old Girl, with a heavily manipulated vocal by Metric's Emily Haines set against a plucked banjo and swirling synth, is simply beguiling, and concludes with the chanted mantra "Park that car/drop that phone/sleep on the floor/dream about me". Cause=Time is perhaps the standout track on an outstanding record, sounding like the best song J Mascis never wrote during that golden age when Dinosaur Jr were still capable of churning out effortless self-sustaining ragged pop explosions. The drawled closing lyric "They all want to love the cause/they all need to be the cause/they all want to dream the cause/they all need to fuck the cause" echoes Freak Scene just as much as the vertical take-off guitar. Lover's Spit runs it close, a vaguely Sparklehorsish, swelling slow burner. This only tells a fraction of the story. Throughout the album, expertly produced by David Newfeld, little unexpected things are happening, squiggles of keyboards, washes of strings, a bottle rolling across the studio floor, even Newfeld counting the band members in during the languid Looks Just Like the Sun. It's one of those rare records that feels like it has a real sense of purpose, a mission to recreate (indie) rock and in this respect it is wholly successful. Album of the year? Can't see much coming remotely close.
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003