Music Reviews
Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene Broken Social Scene

(Arts & Crafts) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

You can hear right away where the new Broken Social Scene album is going wrong. It's just a hint of what is to come, but it's there. A lone guitar introduces Our Faces Split the Coast in Half. It's joined by another, then by a slick bass riff, some drums and a searching horn, no, make that horns. Wait, here come some chanting vocals, and now the lead vocal. Hold on, what's going on? We're about a minute in and, er, is that 27 people all playing their amplified instruments at once? Next comes Ibi Dreams of Pavement. Is that five Jane's Addictions overdubbed like the fade-out piano chord on A Day in the Life?

Perhaps this is what happens when leftist politics are applied to rock. I'm a big believer in applying the tenets of classical liberalism, from the perfect competition of Adam Smith to the democratic principles of Thomas Jefferson, in order to create the most egalitarian society, leading to the unattainable ideal of perfect liberty and freedom. But perhaps this record gives us a clue where we liberals can shoot ourselves in the foot. In trying to get what sounds like equal input from each of the band's give-or-take 15 members they run up against the old "too many cooks" adage, and frequently spoil the stew.

Let's extend the political/culinary mixed metaphor a little further, shall we? Look at what I believe to be one of the few remaining examples of perfect competition in the Smith mold - pizza. Where I live, and probably where you live, there are a hundred pizza places, all making variations on a theme. Pizza is always good, always cheap, and always easily available. Why? Because there's a hundred different pizza places all trying to get your attention! Walmart has yet to buy them all up.

The point is, you can't make a good pizza by committee - or a good record. Too much of "Broken Social Scene" sounds like they started in the studio with a great tune, polished it to a studied perfection and then, hold on, Joey just came in with his trumpet, and there goes Molly with her violin, and she brought her pals - go for it guys, all for one and one for all! Needless to say the best moments come when the piling on is kept to a minimum, or when the nervous energy which is their specialty is allowed to burst forth. The former is apparent in songs like Hotel and Swimmers, which recall what made You Forgot it in People so great. The latter is best heard on 7/4 (Shoreline) which, before it degenerates into cacophony, makes the most out of the obscure time signature and also has the last album's sense of adventure. Yet most of the good material suffers from the kind of indulgence typified by the last track, It's All Gonna Break. Here is the album's best song, stretched out needlessly to 9:55, layered with everybody and his sister, playing everything including the kitchen sink (no seriously, I think I hear an actual kitchen sink in there), and mucking up a perfectly good song about gay anal sex with a minor.

Occasionally I am tempted to write a qualified review, stating that while I find the album unlistenable, there is enough good material here for those who don't mind the LED running constantly in the red to get their rocks off. I mean, Raw Power was a good album, wasn't it? But then I say to myself, "grow some nads you weak-willed bastard and have the courage of your convictions - if you don't like it, say so." The best I can say is that it's a compelling failure. Draw your own conclusions.