RATE FORGIVENESS ROCK RECORD:
I don’t like to review albums track by track. It’s a trite format – a this-song-sounds-like-this and this-song-sounds-like-that categorization of a body of work that takes away from a record as a whole. If you want to know what each song sounds like, buy the album. If you want to know if an album is worth buying on the whole, read an album review.
Similarly, I try to stay away from band-to-band comparisons when describing music. There’s nothing more frustrating than reading a review that simply compares the music to other existing music. Sure, it’s often helpful to give the reader a benchmark as a jumping off point. But at the same point, no one wants to read a review like this one, which name drops more than ten artists for comparison. I believe in using the Sounds Like tool sparingly and moving on to original criticism.
Strange (and hypocritical), then, that I find myself fighting the urge to go down the tracklist of Broken Social Scene’s Forgiveness Rock Record song by song, summing up each cut’s style and content by comparing it to bands that have come before. It’s a fun game of Name That Band: Opener and first single “World Sick” is a patient Explosions in the Sky slow burner with layered vocals splayed over the top. “Chase Scene” follows it with a speedy mix of TV On The Radio and Iron and Wine sensibilities. “Texico Bitches” is Being There era Wilco, but a tad more repetitive.
I’ll spare you the monotony of actually going through Forgiveness Rock Record’s fourteen tracks in that manner, but suffice it to say that this impulse got me thinking. Thinking that maybe it’s not strange to want to describe Broken Social Scene in the context of other artists. In fact, maybe it’s completely natural. The band – which oscillates between six and a whopping nineteen members – is more of a collective of artists than anything. Broken Social Scene concerts resemble benefits more than rock shows, a rotating cast of characters taking their turn in the spotlight. Similarly, on record the band wears a variety of masks, songs featuring a rotating selection of vocalists, styles, and complexions. Maybe the only real way to encapsulate the whole of Broken Social Scene is by delineating its parts.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying Broken Social Scene suffers from some sort of musical multiple personality disorder. It’s more of a multiple personality intention – this is all part of the plan. Forgiveness Rock Record is a gently scattered album that highlights the beauty of difference, a confluence of brilliance rather than a clash of indie titans. The variation found on the record is it’s – and Broken Social Scene’s – strength. Forgiveness Rock Record is the album version of typing Wilco, Stars, and Andrew Bird into a Pandora station for an afternoon.
It suffers from the same trivial misses that you might find on that sort of patchwork recommendation engine, too. This album is good listening; you’d be hard pressed to find an indie rock fan who won’t like something on Forgiveness Rock Record. But it’s not quite great. It toys with greatness on songs like “All To All,” “Sentimental X’s,” and the pairing of “Water In Hell” and “Me and My Hand” that closes out the album, but it never quite makes the leap. When taken as a whole, Forgiveness Rock Record is a better-than-midway point between the exquisite You Forgot It In People and the less impressive Broken Social Scene - solid all the way through, but lacking the standout tracks that made the former so formidable. The lows on Forgiveness Rock Record are basically non-existent (although “Texico Bitches” grates on me after a time) but the highs are less grandiose.
As a result of this evenness, Forgiveness Rock Record does have a tendency to fade into the background, much like that Pandora station. But it’s a pleasant fade, a slow melt into a happy mindlessness. The rock part of the album title might be a stretch of the word, but the forgiveness part is dead on – this album embodies the feeling that, in the end, everyone is cool and everything is going to be OK.
77 — Great. A stand-out in its genre. Multiple listens demanded! [Rating Scale]
To enter to win a copy of this album on vinyl (or CD), leave a comment with your thoughts on the album and join PMA’s Facebook Group. A winner will be randomly picked on May 14th. Listen to songs from the album below: