Let’s Try the After Vol. 2
Broken Social Scene
Let’s Try the After Vol. 2
Arts & Crafts
I have and always will refer to Broken Social Scene as The Ensemble That Rocks. The Canadian outfit was truly a godsend in the ’00s rock epoch, when trite rock and/or roll machismo started rearing its ugly head again. Here was a group of egalitarian-minded musicians, all putting their eggs in the same basket. In giddy fashion, Broken Social Scene crammed as many musical ideas and stylistics as possible, all within that same infectious burst brandished by lo-fi rockers Sebadoh and Guided By Voices. And glorious it indeed was.
Give or take, Broken Social Scene had plenty of particulars within their very expansive MO. First of all, they were spearheaded by the naturally affable duo of Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. But they had an offbeat depth to them that’s uniquely theirs, juxtaposing the sonorous splendor and cherubic grace of their recordings with risqué and downright sordid lyrical imagery. In Forgiveness Rock Record (2010), Broken Social Scene (2005), and You Forgot It In People (2002), they had this mighty triptych perhaps only indie contemporaries …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead could match; not to mention spark plugging the careers of indie stalwarts Metric and Feist along the way.
On 2017’s Hug of Thunder, and also the two subsequent EP’s released this year, Let’s Try the After Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, I couldn’t shake the feeling that some of Broken Social Scene’s old magic-what made them so good-got lost in the shuffle. The recently released Vol. 2 again opts for a more widescreen production sound, and in many ways, this blunts a lot of the band’s sharper edges. “Can’t Find My Heart” indeed sounds like the disillusioned third sequel to “Almost Crimes” and “7/4 Shoreline.” With so much space for the instrumentation to maneuver in, Broken Social Scene actually sounds more withdrawn and lackluster. At their best, they are so incredible at creating that illusion of a spaced-out record by actually shrinking the space, contrasting big orchestral sounds with fuzzy lo-fi recordings.
The autotuned “Big Couch” is another extension of this notion of big productions not serving a big sound. That being said, this song is probably the biggest flirt with vintage Broken Social Scene, as the band’s rhythmic section rallies like a lost traveler catching up to a Greyhound Bus. But its stealthy gallop is for a large part a hazy familiarity, an echo of something the band did way better on “Romance to the Grave.” “Let’s Try the After” and “Wrong Line” largely feel like ideas on the cutting room floor, squeezed out tediously to the very last drop.
Though releasing a tandem EP’s is a fairly risk-free endeavor for Broken Social Scene at this point, I wished they used that creative abandon to try something that didn’t feel so rehashed. For a band who still feels somewhat novel in their makeup and methods, you can’t help but wonder whether they’re capable of sonically redefining themselves in similarly radical fashion as Slowdive did with Pygmalion, or Low most recently with Double Negative. I certainly deem them capable; Vol. 2 could’ve baby stepped into a different pasture instead of fumbling-as Drew puts it-to find their heart.
To go back to my original point; maybe this is the most honest music Broken Social Scene can make right now, awkwardly ambling down Just Okayville, that sweet sanctuary within ad infinitum musical possibilities of today. And in a way, as a music writer, I can be somewhat empathetic to that idle plight. I mean, what’s the point of strenuously breaking down an album in snappy truisms when people can immediately listen and get lost in the work itself?
Getting lost in space can be intimidating, but it’s also an excuse to just do your thing unperturbedly. This scribe-at the very least-hopes the members of Broken Social Scene can meet him somewhere in the middle with the proverbial Predator bro shake: you might forget music’s potency in the art, or (in my case) the craft. But you can never EVER forget it in the People. ( www.brokensocialscene.ca)
Author rating: 5/10
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Average reader rating: 6/10
Originally published at http://www.undertheradarmag.com on June 5, 2019.