Broken Social Scene United

Thursday, 17 June 2010

It's always exciting to hear that about moment when a band really comes into its' own. For fans, there's a certain validation in it – as if the assembled mass is suddenly able to say, “I knew it all along” under  its' breath while everyone previously on the outside begins to gravitate toward the band because they have reached that all-important next level – because they were first and they were present in the beginning and they were able to see when the going was good and were ready to cheer when the going got great. In the case of Broken Social Scene, that moment manifested and made itself known on May 4, 2010 when the band Forgiveness Rock Record was released; from the moment fans were able to lay their hands on and listen to the new album, they knew the band had ascended onto another level of recognition. For the group itself, such a universally positive reception was incredibly gratifying, because it meant that the effort put in and the angles taken on Forgiveness Rock Record were just as right as they'd hoped. “I think the time to make the record was a year well spent,” laughs guitarist/bassist Charles Spearin lightly. “We started in May of last year and it came out in May of this year and we were recording both in Chicago and Toronto – going back and forth – working pretty consistently. It wasn't a year solid for us – some of us did have obligations that we had to attend to –  but other people were still working on it while some of us were gone and there was a good, consistent effort at it.

“We recorded some of the album in Toronto and then some of it in Chicago with [Tortoise drummer/multi-instrumentalist/recording engineer] John McEntire, which was a real thrill for some of us,” continues Spearin, unable to hide his enthusiasm. “We were all big fans of Tortoise and The Sea And Cake back in the day. We still are but, in the Nineties, Kevin, Justin and I really bonded over our love of anything that came out on Thrill Jockey Records. John was kind of a hero of ours back then, and when we all got the chance to work with him, we all got pretty excited about the possibility so we went and worked in his studio in Chicago. Going to Chicago was nice because then we could really put in the hours where, if we're working in Toronto, people get distracted by doing their own things and then only coming in when they can. In Chicago, it was a good, twelve-hours-a-day effort.”

The effort put in, without meaning to gush, most definitely marks the difference between Forgiveness Rock Record and all of Broken Social Scene's previous releases. The individual members of the the group have really come together with a focussed view of the project as a band this time; it's not just fun anymore, everyone is together in where they want Forgiveness Rock Record to go, and listeners are mark the change in Broken Social Scene's approach from the moment “World Sick” fades in and bursts to life to open the record. It's incredible how the unique sensibilities of each member factors in; there are obvious flecks of unusual percussive motifs inherent to Whiteman's Apostle Of Hustle, the sweet indie soul Brendan Canning exposed on Something For All Of Us, the mildly electronic rock of Kevin Drew's solo work and the rock trimmings of Collett and Crossingham. It's an enormous conglomeration, but it comes together so well and so easily that fans will be instantly satisfied and excited by what they're hearing. The songs get stronger as they grow more diverse too – throughout songs including “Art House Director,” “All to All,” “Sentimental X's,” and “Chase Scene,” Lesley Feist, Emily Haynes, Amy Millan, special guest and Pavement alumnus Spiral Stairs, Kevin Drew, Lisa Lobsinger, Andrew Whiteman and Brandon Canning all trade off on lead vocal turns but, surprisingly, listeners never get lost or confused by the changing dynamics and arrangements that come every time the band's make-up changes. The songs themselves seem to be universally accessible; everything rolls together smoothly and cleanly with a final effect that calls to mind both Bob Dylan's work with The Band and Sonic Youth all at once but isn't derivative either. It's an unlikely success on paper, but it is absolutely brilliant and a definitive exposition of the band's powers in practice. These fourteen songs are the strongest combined set that Broken Social Scene has ever assembled and released; it's a captivating process to listen to the band's transition between different line-ups and arrangements but inspiring to witness them do it so fluidly. Simply said, Forgiveness Rock Record is a revelation into the faculties of Broken Social Scene; here, the band is performing at a level that warrants the praise they've they've been so graciously afforded. In listening to the record, one gets the sense that such a work would have registered as a tremendous exertion in the making but, according to Spearin, it never really felt that way; according to the guitarist, it felt great as the songs began to come together, and there was only an ever-so-slightly different vibe to the sessions, but it was a very liberated one. “I think it was really healthy for the band to have done those 'Presents' records and I think that having done them really changed something in the band,” theorizes Spearin, in hindsight. “When we did the 'Presents' records and the way we did them was fantastic because that way Kevin got to steer the ship for a while and Brendan got to steer the ship for a while and everybody got to see their ideas through to the end. I put out my solo record too so there wasn't really that sense of needing to satisfy your ego quite as much when we started Forgiveness Rock Record and, because of that, it was far more lighthearted when we got together; with that pressure off, we just wanted to get together and make some music and see what happens. We tried to put away the judgements as much as we could and just record and record and record and enjoy ourselves and enjoy making music and then use our discriminate and discerning tastes and senses later. Sometimes when you first start a project, there is the desire to be really critical and say what's good and what's not but, for this, we just threw the floodgates open for this record and decided to just make music because that's what we do and that's what we love doing.

“It was a really great feeling to go in there and not feel like there was some kind of judgement placed on every note you played,” continues the guitarist. “Everybody was just doing what they love to do and then later on when we discovered that we had something like fifty songs, we had to start deciding what we liked and what we wanted to finish. That's when things began to get a little more precise; we had to be a bit more careful with our decisions when we got down to the mixing stage. It was a really great feeling to do it the way we did though – to just go in and record. It was very liberating and I think it made us a better band. I mean, we've said before that Broken Social Scene isn't exactly a band but, ultimately, bands don't really exist; band's are ideas. We're people, we live our lives, we get together and play music, the music becomes the band – not the people. It's an idea really, and while it's a slightly different idea from most bands, we tour like a band, we fit into the category of 'a band,' but, ultimately, we're people that like to play music together and we like to play music with other people as well. In a way, the whole thing is sort of poking fun at the whole idea of what a band is but, this time, I think the process by which we went about not being a band turned into something really special and I think we're all pretty proud of it.”


Further Reading:

Ground Control's review of Forgiveness Rock Record.


Forgiveness Rock Record is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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