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This Blog Is Broken

February 25th, 2010

BSS @ VFest 06

The year was 2000. The alternative music scene had all but died, and major labels were struggling to keep up with changing times and new technology. But in a basement apartment in the heart of downtown Toronto, two musicians were forming a creative partnership that would revive the mass appeal of indie music and forever change how we think of a band.

– This Book Is Broken


Broken Social Scene is the epitome of indie music. Partly because the band consists of 19 members, all from different Canadian indie rock bands. But mainly because, really, they make incredible, surreal music.

I have decided to write an exposé of the band’s ventures and albums. Included are also a few blurbs from Stuart Berman who is associated with the band, plus a blurb from the band itself.

The band was created when friends Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning got together and began writing and creating music. By 2001 when they released their first LP, Feel Good Lost, they had scooped up a few more Toronto-native artists to total 8 members and at times toured with as many as 16. These new members included artists such as Leslie Feist, Evan Cranley, Jason Collett, Emily Haines and Amy Millan.

Feist performing with BSS

In 2002, those newly acquired members ended up sticking around with the band for the recording of Broken Social Scene’s second full length: You Forgot It In People. It also featured contributions from artists such as Priddle, Jessica Moss, Susannah Brady and Ohad Benchetrit. This album won the “Album of the Year” Juno award in 2003. In the same year, the band released their third LP, a b-side collection album titled Bee Hives, which contains b-sides from You Forgot It In People.

BSS released their fourth album in 2005. Self-titled Broken Social Scene included tracks with k-os, Jason Tait and Murray Lightburn. The band also picked up Torquil Campbell as a full-time member. With this, Broken Social Scene won the Juno’s “Alternative Album of the Year” award.

Broken Social Scene Presents. These were a set of two albums: …Presents: Kevin Drew and …Presents: Brendan Canning. They can both be loosely defined as solo projects, but realistically, they can both be labeled as Broken Social Scene albums. Both albums featured Haines, Feist, Millan, etc etc. As I said, both were pretty much standard BSS albums.

In March of 2009, a book titled This Book is Broken was written by Eye Weekly’s Stuart Berman, who has been in association with the band for many years. The tome includes behind-the-scenes photos, artwork, posters, blurbs and other texts, all providing the reader with the depth and closeness to the band that they were looking for.

Proceeding 2009’s cancellation of Toronto’s Olympic Island festival, Broken Social Scene offered a free make-up concert at the Harbourfront Centre. This concert, as described by many, was the experience of a lifetime. Almost every single past and present contributors to Broken Social Scene (keep in mind that there have been 25 total) made an appearance at the concert.

Broken Social Scene has been working on a new album, Forgiveness Rock Record, which will be released on May 4, 2010. Recorded in Chicago and Toronto, the album features a track with Amy Millan, Emily Haines and Leslie Feist all on the same track – the first time ever on a BSS album.

Album Analysis:

Feel Good Lost
Ambience galore. So ridiculously many layers of sounds. This is an album that I’d recommend for an already-die hard Broken Social Scene fan. The insane amount of instruments, vocals, etc., while most definitely pleasant to the ears, also may test the patience of a newcomer to the BSS crowd. Since I, myself, really like this album, it is pretty hard to say; for others, this is probably the least popular of their albums. Once again, though: People that are fans of a) intense ambience; or b) other BSS albums are bound to love this.

Notable Tracks: “I Slept With Bonhomme at the CBC”, “Feel Good Lost”

You Forgot It In People
By far my absolute favourite LP set out by Broken Social Scene. I mean for starters, it has what is, in my opinion, BSS’s best song on it: “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl”. You Forgot It In People’s definability can be mirrored by the nature of that one song. Absolute harmony and precision, ambience, simplicity, awesomeness… pretty much all of the great attributes that make up Broken Social Scene. As previously stated, the album won a Juno and was also placed 7th on Stylus Magazine’s Top 50 Albums of 2000-2005.

Notable Tracks: “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl”, “Cause = Time”

BSS @ VFest 2006

Bee Hives
Everyone digs b-sides. You think that you’ve heard everything from an artist, you get bored of them (not in BSS’s case) and then one day… you discover some random b-sides, which are always really, really fantastic. Usually. Same case here with Broken Social Scene. Really, what this is is just an added incentive to listen to Broken Social Scene. A bonus, if you will!

Notable Tracks: “Time = Cause”, “Market Fresh”

Broken Social Scene
This album seems to move away from soothing, ambient sound (a little bit), more towards a fun and lively bunch of tracks. I mean, if I was going to play some of their songs live… these would be them! “Fire Eye’d Boy”, “7/4 (Shoreline)”, “Handjobs For The Holidays”… I mean really. This is a fantastic, giddy, quite special album. Definitely. It’s always nice to see a band emit a blend of light songs and well… this. Recommended for newcomers to Broken Social Scene. A definite hook to the band. You’ll love them.

Notable Tracks: “7/4 (Shoreline)”, “Handjobs For The Holidays”

EP To Be You and Me
All you need to know about this album: “Major Label Debut (Fast).” Unbelievable song. Only amazing song on the album. Then again, though, it is a BSS album. Every song is great!

Notable Tracks: “Major Label Debut (Fast)”

BSS @ VFest 2006

Now, since Forgiveness Rock Record obviously hasn’t been released yet, I asked 102.1 The Edge’s Dave “Bookie” Bookman and Eye Weekly’s Stuart Berman what they think the soon-to-be released album will entail.

Dave Bookman said:

“[It will contain] a more cohesive approach to the album format that other acts are abandoning these days.”

It’s obvious that Forgiveness Rock Record will contain specialness. Most likely a specialness that past bands have only strived to decipher. I mean, take a look at the track “World Sick” that has been released on their website. What a solid representation of what could potentially be on the album. Like Dave Bookman said, it will be like no other.

I can proudly and happily say that Broken Social Scene have greatly influenced my life today. The ability to transition from sadness to utter bliss; the contrast is really quite special. Unlike most bands, Broken Social Scene releases even better material as time goes on.

Stuart Berman said,

“The success of Broken Social Scene’s albums can be attributed to a delicate balance: between structure versus sprawl; melody versus noise; order versus chaos; the anthemic versus the introspective; in-the-raw performances versus studio manipulation; tension versus bliss. Because it could all so easily tip in either direction — if they’re not careful, they could become just another faceless post-rock jam band, or they could go full-on U2 arena-rock. I think the first single, “World Sick,” is a good harbinger of what’s to come — on the one hand it’s an emotionally direct pop song with a catchy chorus; on the other hand, the song is seven minutes long and has this woozy, fever-dream quality to it. That’s way they take their sweet time making their albums — they want to get the balance just right.

Broken Social Scene will play Toronto’s Olympic Island on June 19th, 2010. This is a must-see.

I really do hope that Broken Social Scene makes as big an impact on you that they did on me.

Written by: Matt Shore
Photos by: Wendy Heisler

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