Sympathetic Stupid

Friday, October 14, 2005

Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene

After hearing ibi dreams of pavement thanks to Said the Gramophone, and reading the Pitchfork review (I'll save you the click, it was 8.4), I got this album. Was I chasing cred? Probably. But, in my defence, ibi dreams of pavement is a truly great track.

So what about the album? It's not an all-time classic. It's got great tracks and good tracks and mediocre tracks. It starts with the gentle, atmospheric our faces split the coast in half, which is all muted brass and undecipherable vocals propelled by a shedload of percussion. Then the afore-mentioned big rock anthem ibi, fading from its huge brass riff into 7/4 (shoreline). Yes, it is in 7/4; duelling acoustic guitars and an urging drum line sit under the generic indie vocals, but a good riff catches this track before it falls.

Following is finish your collapse and stay for breakfast, a nothing track but not actively unpleasant. major label debut is the other great track on the album, an insubstantial yet filling dose of well-structured indie pop. (The rockier version on the accompanying EP works even better, mainly thanks to the constant drum fills.)

And it's about here that the album loses its way. fire-eyed boy starts with a promising groove then degenerates into a bit of a mess, breathy half-heard vocals the main killer for me - it reminds me of what I don't like about The Dandy Warhols. Similarly, windsurfing nation has a promising beat and hangs onto that drive, hitting a hand-clappy chorus, but again lacks in the vocal stakes, getting all post-rock and style-over-substance, with seven different uninspiring vocal lines running at once. At this point I'm really missing some nice power pop dealing half-ironically with love. On swimmers, the vocals seem particularly trite (though probably only because you can hear them) and the by-numbers music fails to arouse. Then hotel and handjobs for the holidays round out the particularly uninspiring, monotonal middle third of the disc.

Then it picks up a bit, with superconnected, a solid rocker, and bandwitch, a cleaner pop track with a good background vocal line. temoloa debut is another nothing track, but the nigh-on ten minute closer it's all gonna break, is more conventional than much of the album. And it works well. Say what you like about verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus (almost) but it gives ample room for these guys to display their talents. Because they are seriously talented, a fact hidden by the navel-gazing that wanders through the middle of the CD.

So yeah, it failed to quite hit the spot for me. Too pedestrian for too long, which is really brought home by the golden moments when everything comes together and it's a triumph.