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Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record
Canada’s got a knack for giving us indie groups, and Broken Social Scene (BSS) is one of the most paramount. The group consists of members of other groups (Metric, Stars, The New Pornographers) and indie icons Jason Collett and Feist. You Forgot It in People and the self-titled follow-up album are iconic records of the past decade. BSS write meticulous pop cuts that are both snide and utterly sincere.
Kevin Drew, founder and propeller of the group, created a very rustic and dry sound on the earlier records; his production is the leading instrument. Every chord struck, every word that hits the mic, and every cymbal crash is mixed to razor-sharp perfection, but on Forgiveness Rock Record, he favours a more sandpapered sound that doesn’t quite make it polished; instead, the album sounds conjunctive. Just listen to ’Chase Scene,’ where they hook us with an aggrandising volume. ’I think I'm ready to go/ I think I'm ready to fight/ for the seed of my life,’ assures the outfit with a hurl.
The group has had its ups and downs during their lifespan, and after most of the members sought solo careers of their own, it was hard to reassemble for a new release, hence the five years it took them to release Forgiveness, and hence the name. In the synthesizer-laden ’All to All,’ the female lead delivered by Lisa Lobsinger literally choruses a call of forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the album will play like an hour-long couple’s therapy session. 'Texaco Bitches' comes quickly to perk up the album, and guess what; it’s about the oil crisis.
As is the case with their earlier albums, 'Meet Me in the Basement' is another instrumental in the band’s string of climactic themes for imaginary film. 'Art House Director' is another meticulous song about the validity of art trying to have it both ways; integrity and accessibility. It’s a premise that BSS built their career around. 'Sweetest Kill' captures a moment where all seems lost in vain, but then comes the song ’Water in Hell‘ as a rebuttal. 'The shuck and Jive/ the shuck and jive is over/ It's the year 2010,' the song reminds us.
In his book The Rock Snob's Dictionary, author David Kamp addresses a type of album called ’hard but rewarding‘– think Radiohead’s Kid A. Kamp undermines such albums and credits their acclaim to their exclusivity. BSS’s output can be lumped in that category, although it would be misleading.The band’s gruffness is not a gimmick, it takes a while for it to click but once it does, it unlocks the door to some of the best indie out today.
One of the shortest tracks on the album is ‘DMT Song’. Created with the help of bassist/vocalist, Thundercat, it is the most vocally dense song on the record. Slow and dreamy, with high-pitched, slightly dissonant, vocals, it's a good intro to the next track, ‘The Nightcaller’. Aptly titled, this song features a groovy dance bass underneath a synthesizer melody that sounds ideal for waving your arms around on the dance floor.
‘Getting There’, with vocals by Niki Randa, is reminiscent of Massive Attack. Not only because of the elongated vocals, but the muffled bass beat and dreamy bell sounds could certainly also have spawned from the brains of 3D and Daddy G. The same goes for ‘Hunger’; a song that sounds like it was recorded underwater and also features Randa. Its spacious melody is broken up by a bridge with echoing vocals and harpsichord-like keyboards.
Erykah Badu is the only vocalist to appear on the album that Flying Lotus hasn’t worked with previously. Her vocals work really well on the African sounding track ‘See Thru To U’ - hopefully, Badu will become incorporated into Ellison’s fixed team of vocalists.
‘Putty Boy Strut’ sounds like a broken toy gone mental, with a catchy musical theme that returns in the deeper layers of ‘Me Yesterday/Corded’.
‘Electric Candyman’ features vocals by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, and is a slow track with male and female vocal melodies mixed together in a way that almost sounds disorienting. Yorke’s voice is hardly recognisable, which seems like a waste considering his great, and highly distinguishable, vocal abilities.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.