After releasing their critically hailed You Forgot It In People, Broken Social Scene toured the world and took their time in releasing a true follow-up. To tide over fans, they dropped a b-sides collection last year called Bee Hives that had some decent tracks, but wasn't outstanding, and in the meantime the group recorded and recorded and recorded. Rumours told of the group having over three albums worth of material tracked, and they finally broke their silence a couple months ago in announcing a new release.
Including a bonus CD EP worth of material, the double disc self-titled set contains nearly ninety minutes of music and is a rolling, tumbling affair that's odd in sequencing and tough to get a grasp on. Upon first listen (and even second and third), there are tracks that pop out, as well as others that simply seem a bit out-of-place and even inconsistent and noodly. After spending a couple weeks with the thing, though, I feel like I'm finally starting to get a handle on it and although I don't find it quite as amazing as You Forgot It In People, it's a worthy and wildly ambitious effort.
Even moreso than on their first disc, Broken Social Scene seems to have drawn in the cream of the crop of Canadian musicians. Artists from The Dears, Metric, Do Make Say Think and other bands all show up, as well as singer Leslie Feist, who has gained a good bit of publicity for herself with her last release Let It Die. The album eases into things with "Our Faces Split The Coast In Half" with Feist adding vocals to a breezy little track tha almost could have been on her own album, while they lower the boom on the second track "Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)." Channeling the group mentioned in the title, the track is a complete guitar fuzz stompbox fest with overdriven vocals that concludes with a noisy, beautiful coda powered by blistering horns.
"7/4 (Shoreline)" follows and it's one of the poppier things the group has ever done with Feist again taking lead vocals over loads of great guitar interplay and a crisp rhythm section that culminates in another explosive closing section. From there, the album takes a bit of a quiet downturn with a quiet interlude track and the subdued "Major Label Debut" before another fairly straightforward (yet completely compelling) track arrives with the dancey "Fire Eye'd Boy."
If you thought the group tried a lot of different styles on their previous album, then Broken Social Scene is going to seem even more wild. "Windsufing Nation" (the original title of the album) moves along with a bit of a start-stop feel and tons of wild vocal layers (including some by an MC) while "Hotel" swerves along with a soulfull feel, accented by swooping filtered vocals, a funky bassline and drum machine beats. There are even a couple short, ambient tracks that sort of come out of nowhere to bridge the already odd running order.
In places, the group seems like they're being almost willfully difficult, and yet it often makes for darn good listening. "Superconnected" would probably be a hit single given a more basic recording, but the group layers it with enough fuzz and noise that it becomes a dense, riotous anthem that is easily one of the best tracks on the disc. The nearly ten-minute closer of "It's All Gonna Break" is even more intense, moving from workman-like rock to over-the-top freakout that culminates in a perfect punctuation to the album.
The extra EP contains mainly quieter tracks, but some of the pieces on it are easily as good as the actual release, including the excellent "Canada Vs America" (which contains the repeated line "We're Bringing Out The Big Guns") and the simple guitar and vocals track "All My Friends." In the end, it's probably a bit on the long side, and while some tracks could have been trimmed a bit or even cut, it's a wild follow-up that will have you discovering new things with each listen for quite some time. The gorgeous packaging and hilarious liner notes (with commentary on each track) make it a must have.