Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

The group’s first album for five years features some expectedly great moments.

Andrew Mueller 2010

Given that most albums suffer from a woeful dearth of ideas, it may seem somewhat perverse to criticise one for flourishing too many. However, Forgiveness Rock Record – the fourth album by Canadian collective Broken Social Scene, and their first for five years – would have benefited immensely from brisk editing. It’s not that the umpty-dimensional indie-prog melange presented here is objectionable – far from it – but that it’s so unfocused that it becomes difficult to perceive Broken Social Scene as anything but the musical equivalent of a chimpanzee typing pool: when they do come up with something lucid, it feels like it’s rather more by accident than design.

Inevitably, Forgiveness Rock Record is the result of the deliberations of a committee. Hilariously unwieldy hodge-podges like this usually are, and often in proportion to the size of the collective that created them. Even after what the accompanying press release calls a “paring down”, Broken Social Scene’s current core line-up still consists of no fewer than seven people, and the giddying roster of guest performers on Forgiveness Rock Record runs into double figures, including contributions by members of Stars, Metric, The Sea & Cake and The Weakerthans. By about halfway through, it’s difficult to be entirely confident that you didn’t play bass on a couple of tracks yourself.

There are some great moments here – given the number of personnel deployed, the law of averages alone would have ensured that. Texico Bitches is dreamy, gentle indie-pop that recalls the canon assembled by legendary New Zealand label Flying Nun (The Chills, The Bats, et al) in the late 1980s. Meet Me in the Basement is an exuberant, stomping-gospel instrumental that sounds like it’s waiting for the Polyphonic Spree to contribute a suitably exultant chorus. Ungrateful Little Father, initially a spare Eels-like ballad, feels like a highlight, but it may be that its apparent relative simplicity has the same appeal as being offered a plain cracker amidst six courses of extravagant gateaux – at least until it, too, outstays its welcome, nudging seven minutes, most of which is vacuous noodling evocative of a failure to tune in a shortwave radio.

Though clearly as replete with imagination as they are with personnel, Broken Social Scene would benefit from the attentions of a less indulgent producer. So would anybody who buys their future albums.

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