Album Review: Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene
Great, Based on 16 Critics
Pitchfork - 83 Based on rating 8.3/10
Forgiveness is not a sentiment often associated with rock music. Anger, despair, infatuation, sure. But forgiveness is more complicated, and tougher to fit into a four-minute song. Broken Social Scene know all about heartbreak-- they've spent most of the last decade crafting songs about it with almost unparalleled zeal.
The multi-headed beast that is Toronto collective Broken Social Scene has produced some of the great city's finer moments over the last decade, and provided a home from home for the likes of Leslie Feist and Metric's Emily Haines. Both feature here on the band's fourth proper record (solo LPs by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning carried BSS branding) alongside Pavement's Spiral Stairs, DFA1979's Sebastien Grainger and lots of others. This crowdsourcing works, though.
Written by a core of six players (Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff, and new guitarist Sam Goldberg) and produced by John McEntire (Gastr del Sol, Tortoise, The Sea and Cake) instead of longtime producer David Newfeld, Forgiveness Rock Record represents a different Broken Social Scene than the collective that broke out of Toronto in the early 2000s. Since the band's last album, 2005's self-titled release, Spearin and Whiteman briefly left the group, founders Drew and Canning released solo albums, and alums continued their careers with group albums (Stars, Metric) and solo releases (Emily Haines, 1; Amy Millan, 2; Jason Collett, 3). And that's to say nothing of the stratosphere-reaching solo success of Feist.
As the founding fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters of the "indie rock collective” phenomenon, Broken Social Scene sure have spread their seeds since their eponymous third album in 2005. Between the commercial success of Leslie Feist and the myriad “Broken Social Scene Presents” solo outings, some feared that the Canadian supergroup’s next outing would be a lackluster collection of stitched-together notebook ramblings and half-hearted demos swept up from the studio floor of previous sessions. Luckily, the endlessly creative and surprisingly fluid Forgiveness Rock Record dispels any notion of opportunism by sticking to what the group does best: crafting clever, ramshackle, occasionally soaring bedroom pop songs (listen close for sirens) in a big expensive studio.
Side-projects, collectives, supergroups; they’re not happy words. They’re style over substance, less than the sum of their parts, offshoots inevitably worse than whatever they’re shooting off from. Broken Social Scene don’t conform to these stereotypes for several reasons. For one thing they’ve disowned the supergroup tag, at pains to point out the ad hoc nature of their gestation and recording.
For many years, Broken Social Scene were more a concept than a band, and that was a big part of their appeal. Success and constant touring forced them to pare down their entourage, firm up the lineup and become an actual band. Forgiveness Rock Record is the sound of the band they became doing an impression of the one that never was. It's tempting to hate it for failing to recapture their earlier unhinged, chaotic glory.
"Epic" is a word that gets lazily tacked onto a lot of Broken Social Scene's music, but with good reason. Broken Social Scene is really the band of the grand, sentimental, indie-rock gesture. Earlier in the band's life, press outlets made a big deal of its size, which included upward of 15 members and certainly seemed like a grand gesture itself. Seeing Broken Social Scene live, with more than 10 people onstage, gave the impression that you had just paid money to see a bunch of people hang out and incidentally produce noise, an accessory of the band's brand of earnest sentimentality.
Five years after their last album, Broken Social Scene, the leaders of Toronto’s indie scene, have regrouped. Though they’ve trimmed their lineup to seven members, the band’s repertoire of art-rock anthems and hazy folk jams has survived intact. On Forgiveness Rock Record, the most notable alteration is a welcome one: Newly official bandmate Lisa Lobsinger’s voice lends several tunes a sublime dreaminess.
Since Toronto’s indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene released their self-titled third album five years ago, the individual members of the group have all enjoyed significantly elevated profiles. With a series of solo albums, side projects, and even a fantastic tour of Sesame Street among their many credits, there has been no shortage of reasons to wonder how these changes might impact BSS upon their eventual reunion. Though the title of the band’s latest album, Forgiveness Rock Record, might suggest something of a mea culpa, the album itself finds BSS as unapologetic and ambitious as ever.
The folks in Broken Social Scene are real aces when it comes to kicking off a record. The one-two punch of “Capture the Flag” and “KC Accidental” that cracks open 2002’s You Forgot It in People, and the slinky slow-build of “Our Faces Split the Coast in Half” from 2005’s Broken Social Scene are among my favorite album leadoffs of all time. On Forgiveness Rock Record, the collective’s first proper album in five years, its first track “World Sick” proudly carries on the BSS tradition of masterful opening gestures.
Bristling with extra barbs this time around... Something of a poor man’s Arcade Fire, in this writer’s mind at least, amorphous Toronto musical army Broken Social Scene go some way to addressing such unkind assumptions here. True to past form guests are too numerous to list, yet their previously sedate indie-rock-isms bristle with extra barbs this time around.
Broken Social Scene make big, sprawling music fitting of a big, sprawling band whose members span multiple genres, projects and scenes. They’ve made consistently solid and occasionally great music since they first burst into the public eye with You Forgot It In People in 2002. Forgiveness Rock Record continues to develop the anthemic sounds they have increasingly incorporated on each passing album.
Canadian collective’s latest is just too much The last time I saw Broken Social Scene live, in November 2008, what struck me most about the loosely arranged collective’s sound was how jammy it had become. Previously taut three-minute rock songs unspooled into meandering epics, to sometimes-exhilarating and sometimes-exhausting results. Two years later, the band has given this frustrating sound a name: Forgiveness Rock Record.
It is exceptionally easy to love Broken Social Scene for a number of reasons: they make accessible and challenging art-pop, collectively they’re unequivocally prolific, they’re Canadian, and whether they like it or not they’re easily the most iconic and continuously-evolving indie super-group around. The list goes on and on. But BSS’s paramount quality is their existence as a symbol of committed community.
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.
Two Canadian supergroups, one release date, and no clear winner. Broken Social Scene's long-awaited Forgiveness Rock Record opens with "World Sick," a euphoric guitar rave-up that condenses the collective's sprawling urgency into seven minutes of communal ecstasy. That tightly wound energy carries the first half of the album with an immediacy even greater than 2003's seminal You Forgot It in People, balanced by the single "Forced to Love"; the thrilling, electronic "Chase Scene"; and "Texico Bitches," a snappy indictment of big oil.