'You Forgot It In People' is the winning CD
Social Scene is anything but
exactly a band, Broken Social Scene comes off more like the musical
mixture of a well-oiled athletic team and a traveling fun show.
Their recent disc, You Forgot It In People,
is an engaging pastiche of tuneful hooks and dreamlike soundscapes
that bear little resemblance to one another. Several have the capacity
to get under the skin for weeks at a time.
Social Scene: tuneful hooks and dreamlike soundscapes that get
under the skin. ["Looks Just Like the Sun," by Mary
And for whatever such things are worth, the Toronto-based
collective won Canada's Juno Award for best alternative album of
2002. It was released stateside last summer.
But the disc only hints at the oddly affecting spectacle
that is Broken Social Scene's live show.
This quirky brood barnstormed Portland several weeks
back for a rollicking, jam-packed show on a Saturday night at Dante's.
They followed a pair of Toronto opening acts and took
the stage with an ever-changing lineup that included members of
both supporting bands.
In combinations that often neared double figures,
the assemblage featured four different vocalists along with trumpets,
trombone, keyboards, drums, hand percussion, bass and as many as
four ringing guitars at any given moment.
Players exchanged instruments and shuffled lineups
between songs like a wily hockey team sharing equipment and changing
lines on the fly. Sometimes only a few members played as the rest
stood off to the side. Other times the whole crew joined in and
enveloped the room with sound.
Kevin Drew functioned as de facto team captain, addressing
the crowd, singing his share and mostly playing keyboards. As co-captain,
Brendan Canning handled much of the bass, but also spent key moments
on guitar and worked a phalanx of pedals, knobs, buttons and switches.
Forgot It In People: A 2002 Canadian
release, available stateside in 2003.
Many songs began with Drew noodling around on his
keyboard, seemingly in search of some elusive sound. Several moments
might pass before he'd find it at which point he'd wander
over to a box on the floor and twiddle knobs until the sound pulsated
to his liking.
Then, with the newfound sound as backdrop, the drummer
would kick out a beat and off they'd be an apparent pack
of gentle-souled people who clearly love making music together.
Both the show and the CD run a gamut of styles
from dreamy instrumentals and horn-juiced pop to gentle ballads
and tough-edged rock. Broken Social Scene displays a jam-band's
heart and seems connected to a parallel universe where words don't
matter as much as melody, rhythm, groove and an unrelenting grace.
But the show didn't lack teeth, either in music or
Somewhere near the midpoint, Drew, mild mannered and
Canadian as could be, aimed a pointed-but-friendly lecture at the
enthusiastic crowd. To paraphrase, he proclaimed that, around the
world, the U.S. isn't exactly viewed as the greatest of nations
these days. Find the right people to vote for, he said, and vote
Then he apologized for his three minutes of speechifying
and it was back to music.
Good Lost: The 2001 debut.
Meanwhile, several other songs from the album retained
just the right resplendent bite on stage, especially "Cause
= Time," "Looks Just Like the Sun" and the night's
encore, "Lover's Spit."
If the show had a flaw, it was simply in playing the
amazingly infectious "Stars and Sons" about 45 minutes
too soon. Even so, the elongated live rendition bass-driven
and four guitars strong was unbeatable.
But placed toward the night's end, it might have come
close to lifting the roof off the place. Still, sometimes things
sound pretty good just the way they are.
Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People
is filled with infectious, memorable songs. On stage they're inspired,
joyful, melodious and anything but broken.