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Broken Social Scene - Seek our Forgiveness
, 5 May 2010
This review is from: Forgiveness Rock Record (Audio CD)
For many Broken Social Scene's 2005 self titled third album was the musical equivalent of Marmite and many reviewers seem to either love it or hated it. It does have some great songs not least "7/4 Shoreline" and "Ibi Dreams of Pavement" but sometimes even on those you felt that the sheer number of musicians in the band almost consumed and devoured all available musical space on the record. On times it all turned into a rather messy and confused cacophony. It contrasted greatly with the sure footedness found on their second album "You Forgot it in People" one of the best albums of the past decade and a clear shot across the bows to there great Canadian rivals the Arcade Fire.
What then about "Forgiveness Rock Record". The first point to make is that it is a long album packed with musical ideas some of which work so well you sense it is there best work thus far. Alternatively other parts leave you praying to the god of musical editing that one day someone may honestly tell the frontmen Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew that size doesn't matter and less is more. As a result there are a couple of gripes to get out of the way. "Texaco bitches" for instance is a song that David Bryne would have discarded from rehearsals for Talking Heads 77. "Highway slipper jam" starts off like someone is about to sing "daylight come and me want to go home" and goes into a fairly dull and plodding acoustic song with whistling. I'm not certain about the instrumental "Meet me in the Basement" although it could be a grower, alternatively "Water is Hell" is at best a bonus track and could have been happily left of an album that clocks in over 64 minutes.
But enough of the grumps. The bulk of this album is scintillating stuff. The opener "Work Sick" is a 6 minute plus panoramic rock opener and possibility one of the best songs they have ever recorded. The lyrics also point to some of the much rumoured tensions within this musical collective when the opening verse declares
"We got a minefield of crippled affection
All for the borrowed mirror connection
That's why I'm leaving this spoken detention
I'm a romance addict so that I can confess that"
Its excellent stuff as is the wonderful "All in All" a bubbling piece of rolling electronica song beautifully by the excellently named Lisa Lobsinger, a potential rival to Leslie Fiest (well probably not). The beautifully paced slow ballad "The Sweetest Kill" sees the band proving that is has considerably upped its song writing abilities and is an aching highlight. It is followed by the synths and echo laden guitar of "Romance to the Grave" and has the BSS quality which we all love, namely a song which carries you with driving mystery and sheer pop verve. Other songs worth checking out are the spiky but hook laden "Forced to love", the 6 minute plus "Ungrateful little father" which has a Prince like quality to it and finally "Art House Director" is all breezy horns and sax and could well be the direction that the band might wish to explore in more depth in the future.
Broken Social Scene spawn great musicians like they are going out of fashion, which is both a strength and weakness. The sheer size and scale of various inputs are however (almost) properly controlled on "Forgiveness" and the danger of blowing ear drums dramatically diminished. Credit must go to John McEntire for his tighter production values throughout which despite some weaknesses sees this 4th album a much more consistent record than its predecessor and packed full of great songs. Can we therefore provide these Montreal minstrels with the "forgiveness" they seek? The answer is of course we can.
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