Songs that pierce the centre of the hearts that they’ve sprung from.
Mischa Pearlman 2010
As a personality trait, pompous isn’t the most flattering description, insinuating affectation and self-importance. Oddly, though, when it comes to music, that word doesn’t always have to be a pejorative term. Shearwater’s recent albums, for instance, have been grandiose, dramatic affairs, their songs carried by intricate, complex orchestral arrangements that elevate them far above the average tune yet, at the same time, manage to render them accessible and emotive.
Yet it’s a fine line to tread, and, as a result, all too easy to fall off into a pit of exaggerated, insincere self-indulgence. For example, Celine Dion, Coldplay and even Muse’s more recent output all suffer from their own overblown, inflated and often vulgar histrionics, where the bombastic orchestral overkill negates and decimates the original emotional intention of the song(s).
It seems, though, that Edinburgh seven-piece Broken Records were well aware of that potential pitfall when making this boldly ambitious second effort. Let Me Come Home begins with the rollicking, rumbling requiem of A Leaving Song, Jamie Sutherland’s voice soaring over a tumultuous, turbulent tune that shakes and shivers with nervous energy, before the equally urgent, dramatic Modern Worksong jumps off a ledge into a spiralling freefall of pounding instrumentation and visceral catharsis. It’s intense and relentless, but, despite a healthy dose of strings and flamboyance, never overstated. The dirge-like Dia dos Namarados! and the brittle piano bones of the tender, National-esque I Used to Dream provide a counterpoint to the fraught emotional and musical mood – but generally, the pace is fast and desperate, as if the band are running scared through a dark forest, never sure how close whatever it is that’s behind them is.
It is, definitely, a pompous record, but that uncertainty – the sense that, with these songs, Broken Records really are on the edge – means that it thrives as a result. It’s exciting, not self-indulgent; real, not affected. Far from being removed or pretentious, these are songs that pierce the centre of the hearts that they’ve sprung from, songs which turn the personal universal and the universal personal, songs which – especially in the pleading nostalgia of closer Home – linger like the sadness of burying a best friend and having to say goodbye for the final time.