Let's Try the After Vol. 2 by Broken Social Scene

With Vol. 1, a stop-gap release until their next album.
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7438100

As a Canadian, and specifically, as a Canadian that was in university during indie rock’s last gasp (2009-2012, the years of Animal Collective, Phoenix and M83, among others), Broken Social Scene was pretty much everywhere. And what’s particularly interesting about Broken Social Scene is that their early work, from K.C. Accidental’s debut album through breakthrough You Forgot It In People, is that they sounded unique despite co-founder Kevin Drew’s rather non-descript voice. They are, of course, a collective, and their early music sounded like that: You Forgot It In People contained post-rock climaxes (“KC Accidental”), touching ballads (“Lover’s Spit,” “I’m Still Your Fag”), anthemic rock songs (“Almost Crimes,” “Cause = Time”), and the indescribable “Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” the most unlikely of songs to act as an album centerpiece or would come to remain their most treasured song. I like their self-titled album quite a bit, but what made You Forgot It In People special in the indie market got traded for a more stream-lined approach, with more ‘proper’ songs and less instrumentals, and they sounded less like a collective and more like Kevin Drew and friends, and this continued through to Forgiveness Rock Record.

It took them seven years to follow-up on that album, but Hug of Thunder was as good as a Broken Social Scene album could be in 2017. So many hooks! “You say we’re halfway home.” “You’re never gonna be that word.” “The hours, the minutes, the seconds.” And “Hug of Thunder” - the title track - might very well be their best song since “Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” with its airy melody hanging over the heavy bass notes and the second half that achieves the sweetness and sound promised by the title. With each of their albums since You Forgot It In People came with a companion piece, so you could hear the more touching voice of Feist over “Lover’s Spit” hangover chords on the clever-titled Bee Hives or a faster take on “Major Label Debut” on EP To Be You and Me.

Let’s Try the After is broken out into 2 releases, which suggests a wealth of material written during the seven years between Forgiveness Rock Record and Hug of Thunder, and like the previous volume released in February, this starts with an instrumental and contains four songs. Like their previous EPs, you’d be hard-pressed to say anyone needs this stuff. Single “Can’t Find My Heart” is Broken Social Scene in full anthem mode, but it’s not exactly a replacement for “Halfway Home.” You could probably swap this in for one of the weaker songs from Hug of Thunder’s second half.

“200 Couches” follows, the shortest song here that sees Kevin Drew ‘experimenting’ with auto-tune, except it’s less an ‘experiment’ and more a typical Broken Social Scene streetcar-ride tune with the tool switched on. Auto-tune has its uses, and I think of Sufjan Stevens on The Age of Adz or even Dave Longstreth on “Keep Your Name,” which let these artists digitally remove the ‘human’ component of their voices and, paradoxically, were able to yield more emotional results (obviously, inspired by Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak). Kevin Drew doesn’t have Kanye West or Sufjan Stevens’ skill or emotional depth, nor is there a backstory here that made “Keep Your Name” interesting. It’s just the same old hat with auto-tune, and the lyrics are the same nonsense of “Can’t Find My Heart”: “So where’d you go”’s hook becomes “Where did you go?”

Kevin Drew’s also a renown potty-mouth, from the “I’m Still Your Fag”’s urine-drinking to “It’s All Gonna Break” or “Me and My Hand,” and it’s long past the point of poignancy to the point of ridiculous: he drops “Who the fuck can climb this?” and “Tomorrow’s kind of a bitch / The kind of bitch you can’t believe” on the EP’s best song - the title song - and neither hold nearly as much power as they could given how often he runs his mouth off. (Oh yeah, Kevin Drew sings lead on all of these: not a single lead from Feist or Ariel Engle.) Shame, because foggy backdrop of “Let’s Try the After” is more of that hangover music that I think this band does so well. And the last song, with its notably heavy, synth-y bass, feels like a dry-run for Hug of Thunder closer “Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse.” Ultimately, since it took them 7 years to follow-up their last album, both of the Let’s Try the After EPs function, at the very least, as a stop-gap until their next one.

B MINUS