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Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

Recommitting to Broken Social Scene

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Recorded in the aftermath of their breakout album, You Forgot it In People, Broken Social Scene’s 2005 self-titled album reflected the chaotic state of a band suddenly in demand. Brimming with fanfares, crescendos and competing arrangements yet still making room for guest musicians on top of the band’s 15 or so core members at the time, the record was overstuffed and overjoyed, playing as if by some quirk of the calendar the Fourth of July and Mardi Gras both happened to fall on your birthday.

“That was a record made very fragmented and very piecemeal,” recalls founding Broken Social Scene member Brendan Canning. “It was often left up to our producer Dave Newfeld to cobble that record together while we were playing catch-up touring behind Your Forgot It, since that record had such a staggered release. There were no clear lines as to what album we were even touring behind or what part of our career we were in.”

Released this spring, the band’s follow-up album, Forgiveness Rock Record, is everything that 2005 album wasn’t: neat, orderly and even-tempered, with the band falling into a controlled groove. Certainly part of the change is attributable to a shift in producers—Newfeld sat this one out, replaced by Tortoise/Sea & Cake drummer John McEntire, who gravitates toward a more measured form of post-rock—but Canning says, “after all those years and all those side projects we did in between, this record was going to sound different from the last one no matter who we made it with.”

During the half decade between albums, Feist expanded on her solo stardom, aided by heavy exposure in iPod commercials, while the band Metric, featuring singer Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw, climbed up alternative radio playlists. Other members recorded with Stars, The Weakerthans, Do Make Say Think and Apostle of Hustle, while Canning, Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin made solo albums.

“People were off doing other things, so when we finished touring in 2006, we took a pause from the band just to see what all the chips were going to fall,” Canning explains. “We were still very much a band at that point, if maybe it seemed like Broken Social Scene was no longer everybody’s primary concern.”

Canning says that though Broken Social Scene members will always have outside projects, the group has learned to better balance them, and that there’s a sense of renewed commitment to the band.

“On this tour, we’ve been doing an Apostle of Hustle tune, and on other tours after Charles recorded The Happiness Project, we played that at shows,” Canning says. “On this tour, some nights we do a song or two from my record, or one or two from Kevin’s records. We try to just play a bunch of tunes, whether they’re from this album or from that album. We keep everyone content, so everyone’s going to have a chance to do what they want to do, but there’s an understanding that Broken Social Scene is everyone’s main obligation now.”

Broken Social Scene plays the Pabst Theater with The Sea and Cake on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m.