Big Canadian enormous band Broken Social Scene reconfigure for their most sparkling album yet. With 15 members to try to coincide diaries then it must be quite the undertaking but they’ve made a bold and panoramic album that should shift them to the next level and make all that admin worthwhile.
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- SLANG50120LT / Limited clear vinyl, gatefold LP + 8-page artbook on City Slang. Includes vinyl only bonus track. Edition of 3,000 copies for Europe
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There was never a more appropriate album title. Never once. Seven years out of the game, and several more out of relevance, you might have forgotten indie rock supergroup Broken Social Scene actually had any existing left to do; this record is a stellar reminder of their unfathomably loud grand gesture sound, their ability to turn ear-bleeding arrangements into a reassuring arm around the shoulder. ‘Hug of Thunder’ is a band yelling compassion at you.
Skipping zero beats, their new record for their trusty Arts & Crafts does all of the Broken Social Scene things: it opens on a lovely parchment of instrumentation and then burns bright with its first song proper, the lovely “Halfway Home”, whose beaming synth/guitar/bassline triad sounds like a posi, orchestrated version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. The song is one of many that drives through the night with an ecstatic anxiety, its melodies hastening and narrowing as voices interpolate and rush up on one another, as horns squirm to get a word in edgeways. Follow-up “Protest Song” is the same, an initially patient and hummed love song whose chorus is merely a stream of blurted nerve ends. The record feels wide-eyed and panicked at once, with the kind of vitalising energy I once remember hearing in Bloc Party’s ‘Silent Alarm’.
It roars. It stings. It has “Vanity Pail Kids”, obsessed with rock riffing and screamed angularity, even if we eventually have to come back into an indie rock framework. Even the soft bits feel weirdly grandiose: the band render “Skyline”, an acoustic number, with a lush environment and a lamenting fanfare, recalling Arcade Fire’s attempt at homeliness on ‘The Suburbs’. The crackled mumbles and funk-muted bass line of the record’s title track grow into a pop-triumphant hook, like a whispered Haim, their climax contained in the quiet like putting Big Music in tupperware.
Such is the life of a band that has only ever wanted to make symphonies, even when they’re not, but it’s this mix of the immense and the restrained that makes this 2017 Broken Social Scene record sound so damn good: a song as meditative and action-packed as “Victim Lover” makes me think it’s actually good to have this many people build a record together.
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- Hug of Thunder by Broken Social Scene
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