When I sat down to write this review of Broken Social Scene’s fourth full-length album, the newly released, Forgiveness Rock Record, I was listening to it via my laptop speakers. I couldn’t even get through opener, “World Sick” without switching to a proper stereo listening. This album needed to be allowed to boom, even if it was 6 a.m..
Now more than on any of their previous three releases, Broken Social Scene’s agenda is clear—to make music, for fans of music. Their line-up has shifted from as few as six members to as many as 19, drawing from a pool of storied indie names. Forgiveness Rock Record again boasts many contributors, amongst which are Feist and members of The Sea & Cake, Stars, DFA1979 and The Weakerthans. Unlike The New Pornographers, The Dead Weather and arguably most of the acts tagged as “supergroups”, Broken Social Scene eschew the notion of a singular sound, creating what is truly collaborative work, employing their contributors to bring their own ideas and sounds to the table, and allowing them to co-exist in one another’s company. The result on Forgiveness Rock Record is summarized in one word—variety. At it’s core it’s indie prog-rock, but it’s also everything else.
Opener “World Sick” is nearly seven minutes long, an astutely crafted juxtaposition of intensely quiet moments of barely there guitar and percussion that give way to sweeping vocal crescendos. It’s a chill-inducing dramatic kick-off that lets listeners know “epic” will be an earnest synopsis of the album by its close. Forgiveness Rock Record hops influences, passing through Southern-tinged classic indie-pop (“Texico Bitches”), lilt and churn dream-pop (“All To All”), lullaby blues (“Highway Slipper Jam”), and highlighted mid-way through by massive prog rock instrumental, “Meet Me In The Basement” whose premeditated abrupt end serves as the perfect intro to the female powerhouse of Feist, Emily Haines (Metric) and Amy Milan (Stars) on “Sentimental X’s”.
I’d be hard-pressed to name an overall weak moment on Forgiveness Rock Record. The instrumentation and vocals act as a support system for one another, and if one should ever falter, the other is waiting to pick up the slack. It’s grand achievement though is the ability to remain cohesive in the face of endless variety. The more of these indie rock “supergroups” that pop up, the more I realize that Broken Social Scene are the only one I need.