2 February 2009

Broken Social Scene

You Forgot It In People
Arts & Crafts, 2002

It's no coincidence that the opening track on Broken Social Scene's second album, You Forgot It In People, sounds like an underwater scene – an instrumental with shimmering chimes, muffled echoes here and there and horns like far-off whale calls. It only lasts for a minute or two before the rock and roll kicks in, but that sense of fluidity never leaves. It is an album obsessed with the flow of liquids, from the barrage of images of mouths and lips and teeth and kissing, to ships sailing off into the horizon, menstrual blood and dick-sucking and finally, the wonderful piece de resistance, the climax of a song near the end of the album called, with such fantastic and brutal brevity, 'Lover's Spit'. "All these people drinking lover's spit/ Swallowing words while giving head," Kevin Drew croons over fuzzy guitar and piano keys, his voice lazy and gorgeous and effortless, seeping out of him like the tides in his lyrics. "He is a very fluid person," said guitarist Andrew Whiteman when I asked about the singer during an interview a few years ago. "As such, he is very fond of fluids – piss, vomit and cum being his favourite three."

Broken Social Scene were involved in two notable shifts this decade. They were first introduced to an audience outside Canada by Pitchfork Media critic Ryan Schreiber, who slogged through "boxes upon boxes" of promo discs looking for the next decent band to write about before stumbling onto their wonderful second album, and, in turn, ensuring that his online magazine would be touted as an influential tastemaker for the next ten years. The band, a collective of Toronto musicians from bands such as Stars, Feist, Apostle Of Hustle, Do Make Say Think and a dozen or so more, also made popular the idea of the indie ensemble – the super-group of musicians from a particular town or city who collaborate as a whole and as individuals, most notably represented since then by Animal Collective from Baltimore. It didn't hurt that Broken Social Scene were amazing on stage, either. When they played in Melbourne to promote their third, self-titled album, the musicians seemed to have more stamina than the audience. The crowd seemed to be enduring it by the end – more than two hours of relentless and pitch-perfect orchestra pop with lyrics about desire and bodily fluids.

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