Broken Social Scene

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Feel Good Lost (2001), 6/10
You Forgot It in People (2002) , 7/10
Beehives (2004), 4.5/10
Broken Social Scene (2005), 6/10
Jason Collett: Bitter Beauty (2002), 6/10
Jason Collett: Motor Motel Love Songs (2003), 5/10
Jason Collett: Idols Of Exile (2006), 6.5/10
Jason Collett: Here's to Being Here (2008), 5/10
Jason Collett: Rat A Tat Tat (2010), 4.5/10
Jason Collett: Pony Tricks (2010), 4/10
Jason Collett: Reckon (2012), 6/10
Jason Collett: Song and Dance Man (2016), 5/10
Forgiveness Rock Record (2010), 6/10
Hug of Thunder (2017), 5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Alt-rock supergroup Broken Social Scene, hailing from Toronto (Canada) and led by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, debuted with Feel Good Lost (Arts & Crafts, 2001), a low-key (mostly instrumental) atmospheric fresco made of many interlocking parts, from the impressionist watercolor Guilty Cubicles to the easy-listening parody Alive in 85 to the dissonant violin lullaby Mossbraker to the gently droning and looping eight-minute Last Place, the most atmospheric composition. The band rarely repeats itself. I Slept With Bonhomme at the CBC harkens back to the minimalist nostalgic chamber music a` la Penguin Cafè Orchestra. The drums trigger the metamorphoses of Love and Mathematics, from jazzy interlude to minimalist iteration to emphatic crescendo. The electro-orchestral lull of Passport Radio dilates and distorts a soul ballad. The closer, Cranley's Gonna Make It, is an upbeat country-rock shuffle. The vocal songs are no less creative. The seven-minute Blues for Uncle Gibb is indeed an old-fashioned blues, although recorded as if we were listening to it from a keyhole. The Stomach Song does the same thing to folk music, except that it adds a psychedelic touch.

The supergroup truly blossomed with the more robust and varied You Forgot It in People (Arts & Crafts, 2002), that employed 15 players. Bookended by two brief instrumentals, the first one an ambient watercolor (Capture the Flag) and the last one a neoclassical interlude (Pitter Patter Goes My Heart), the songs run the gamut from ebullient noise-rock (Almost Crimes) to Latin-tinged folk-rock (Looks Just Like the Sun), from childish folk lullaby (Anthems for a Seventeen Year-old Girl, penned by vocalist Emily Haines) to poppy Dinosaur Jr-esque work-outs (Cause = Time, with one of Andrew Whiteman's best solos). The most memorable moments are not the melodies or the guitar riffs or the solos, but the ones in which the music gently morphs into its own negation: Stars and Sons (from mellow soul-pop to surreal dissonant freak-out), Shampoo Suicide (from Latin-funky shuffles a` la Santana to eerie bacchanals), the exotic twang-driven muzak of the instrumental Pacific Theme.
The lyrical impetus of the album peaks with the moving six-minute dirge Lover's Spit, sung in a tone that borrows from both Lou Reed and Bob Dylan at a funereal tempo against the backdrop of a horn fanfare.
While lacking a unitary theme, the parade of styles was captivating precisely in its anarchic and protean overreaching.

Beehives (Arts and Crafts, 2004) collects B-sides, alternate takes and studio demos.

Broken Social Scene (Arts & Crafts, 2005) recaptured the ambition of You Forgot It in People but not its spontaneity. In fact, this smoldering cauldron of contradictory ideas sounded positively overwhelming precisely because there was little left to "feeling". In a sense, there was too much substance in tracks such as Ibi Dreams of Pavement, Handjobs for the Holidays and Windsurfing Nation: too many sounds to be sorted out, too many combinations to be unpacked. While occasionally lively (7/4 Shoreline) and atmospheric (Hotel, Major Label Debut), it was clear that the band's effort went into the brainier pieces. Unfortunately, those (particularly the ten-minute It's All Gonna Break) were just about the least engaging ones.

Toronto's singer-songwriter and Broken Social Scene's guitarist Jason Collett, who had already released Chrome Reflection (2000) under the moniker Bird, started his solo career with Bitter Beauty (2002), one of the best country-pop recordings of the year. Motor Motel Love Songs (2003) collected early material, but Idols Of Exile (Arts & Crafts, 2006) was an even bouncier collection than the first one (We All Lose One Another, I'll Bring the Sun, I'll Bring The Sun, Feral Republic). Out of the twelve sparsely-arranged songs of Jason Collett's Here's to Being Here (Arts and Crafts, 2008) only a handful were really worth being released, and of these only a couple (the rocker Papercut Hearts and the moving Henry's Song) validate the status of Collett as a major songwriter, while the rest presents him as a mediocre disciple of Bob Dylan.

Coming after a five-year hiatus, the subdued and eclectic Forgiveness Rock Record (2010) marked another change of direction for the collective that was Broken Social Scene. The energetic songs, such as World Sick and Chase Scene, stand out, but the grand pop of Forced to Love and Water in Hell does not lack pathos compared with the band's artistic peaks of the past, and the instrumental jam Meet Me in the Basement is the one novelty that works well. While those moments are memorable enough and impeccably executed, the rest leaves to be desired, rehashing old ideas for a new generation or simply expanding a vocabulary for the sake of trying different things. This should have been a five-song EP.

Meanwhile, Liz Powell had joined Broken Social Scene. She was the founder and leader of Land of Talk that released Some Are Lakes (2008), Cloak and Cipher (2010) and Life After Youth (2017).

Rat A Tat Tat (2010) cannot even provide a relevant single (Love is a Dirty Word is the exact opposite of memorable) and the catchiest song, Love is a Chain, sounds like Elvis Costello covering a hit of the Sixties.

Collett re-recorded some of his songs with different arrangements on Pony Tricks (2010). Then he collected on the double-disc Reckon (2012) a broad set of songs for a variety of arrangements, from organ and acoustic guitar (Talk Radio) to orchestral (Pacific Blue) via the ironic, jumping and rocking, quasi-reggae I Wanna Rob a Bank, one of the best of his career. Song and Dance Man (2016) is more of a country album, with breezy tunes like Love you Babe.

After a seven-year hiatus, Broken Social Scene returned with Hug of Thunder (2017). Now a 15-member supergroup, they alternated at the vocals. Kevin Drew and Ariel Engle sing the agitated psych-rock of Halfway Home; Ariel Engle leads the feverish party tune Stay Happy; Leslie Feist whispers the feathery lullabye Hug of Thunder; Andrew Whiteman sings in the bouncy and electronic Skyline; Emily Haines intones the girlish twee-pop of Protest Song. None of these is groundbreaking, and most of the rest is disposable, like the bland Towers and Masons, sung by Brendan Canning, and the tedious pop-soul Victim Lover, sung by Lisa Lobsinger. Kevin Drew gets the best numbers: the thundering, syncopated and catchy Vanity Pail Kids and Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse, by far the most jarring and unorthodox song.

Feist released the solo albums Let It Die/b> (2004), The Reminder (2007), Look At What The Light Did Now (2010), Metals (2011) and Pleasure (2017).

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton released Knives Don't Have Your Back (2006) and Choir Of The Mind (2017). She fronted Metric that released: Grow Up And Blow Away (2001), Old World Underground Where Are You Now? (2003), Live It Out (2005), Fantasies (2009), Synthetica (2012), Pagans In Vegas (2015), Dreams So Real (2018) and Art Of Doubt (2018).

Other members of Broken Social Scene have included Ohad Benchetrit, Charles Spearin, and Julie Penner of Do Make Say Think as well as Amy Millan, Evan Cranley, and Torquil Campbell of Stars.

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