Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene

Sam Wetherell 27/01/2006

Rating: 3/5

Me and my step-sister have always held a certain threshold for good music: it needs an “edge”. “Where's the edge?” we would say about some Balian world music compilation. Or, say, Phil Collins for example. The precise nature of this edge varies from artist to artist. Conor Oberest can get away with singing the line “I wish I hadn't died before I met you”, thanks to his cracked and shell-shocked voice. Yo La Tengo escape edgelessness on Pablo and Andrea by draping the second half of the track in a rolling, splintered, and slightly uncomfortable cascade of psychedelic guitar noise.

When I first listened to Broken Social Scene's third studio album I was struck by the astonishing lack of any edge whatsoever. Tracks washed into each other leaving only a vast and unmemorable ocean of sound. Moments of soft, tuneful, yet desperately hesitant vocals seemed to be drowned out by an avalanche of fuzzy indistinguishable instrumentation. Indeed, one of the more impressive aspects of You Forgot It In People, for me, was the confidence and clarity of the vocals. Take, for example, the effect of Kevin Justin's soaring, icy voice on “Lover's Spit”, or deeply unsettling quaver of Emily Haines' voice on “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”.

The vocals on this release are frustratingly elusive in comparison. On “Superconnected” it sounds like they are playing in the room next door, and can only be heard by pressing your ear against the wall. Moments of brilliance arise when the band reverts to simplicity, take the astonishingly lucid trumpet solo at the end of “7/4 (shoreline)”, which, incidentally is the best track on the album.

The overall effect of the album is clumsy, and cluttered with unnecessary ideas that are only there for the sake of being there. You get the impression that the track “Finish your collapse and stay for breakfast”, which is essentially just a minute of instrumental doodling, is only on the album so they could include the words “finish your collapse and stay for breakfast” on the track list. By “Windsurfing Nation” they sound like My Bloody Valentine poorly covering the Go! Team.

The brilliance of You Forgot it in People, coupled with Broken Social Scene's legendary live performances rendered this album brimming with potential. It is not by any means a bad album; it is just far too cluttered, essentially not very memorable, and thus rather disappointing.