Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Repeat: Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene are the word 'dense' personified. They waver from 6 to 19 members at any given time, and while this distinction rings of self-indulgence and brings to mind the cult-like imagery associated with the Polyphonic Spree* and other nonsense, the difference is that the members of Broken Social Scene have no interest in grand orchestral pieces or 12 part harmonies. I'm not saying they don't crank out their fair share of melodies, but theirs are just as likely to come from a looped guitar riff or a cymbal crash as they are to come from the sleepy muddy vocals. If pressed, I would call them Sigur Ros with a stuck accelerator**. Peaks crash as quickly as they are built and careen wildly from one idea to the next with rarely a bridge between them, but never feel disjointed.

It's been 5 long years since Broken Social Scene released their self-titled 3rd LP and during this respite, almost every member has released solo material, from Feist, to Emily Haines, to BSS brainchildren Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. While each foray had its merits, BSS are truly a band whose sum is greater than its parts, so I was thrilled to hear they would be releasing a new album in 2010. Late last week, the first song off the new album entitled 'World Sick' began popping up around the blogosphere, and within the first 45 seconds of the nearly seven minute opus any rust-related grumbles were soundly extinguished.

Sounding like a distant carnival coming into focus, World Sick establishes its own world quickly with tribal drums and a smooth guitar riff before vocals and another squeaky guitar part pop in. A fierce drum breakdown resets everything, only to cycle through once again, familiar guitar parts surfacing for a moment and then washing away. Much is drenched in reverb but never fails to catch you off guard with a chorus that whallops out of nowhere. So many disparate ideas are crammed into this song, but its a testament to the musicians at hand that it never feels out of control or superfluous. If I may be so bold, a good Broken Social Scene track is like a good Arrested Development episode, never failing to unveil new tricks with every listen. Check 'World Sick' out below (or here).

*Gee Willikers they need to make more horror movies that revolve around cults.

**From a defective floormat, not an electrical problem of course.

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