No Forgiveness, Some Rock, and Many Surprises
The title is only somewhat accurate. While there is rock, Forgiveness Rock Record embraces electronic sound equally, and forgiveness is only a fleeting idea rather than a running theme. What Broken Social Scene does craft throughout the disc are surprises. The album’s greatest asset is its ability to vacillate from one mode to another: electronic to rock, upbeat and danceable to somber and sleepy. Despite this back-and-forth, the album is well-paced full of varied, enjoyable tracks occasionally reminiscent of some other Canadian indie collective.
The Arcade Fire comparison was inevitable, so let’s get it out of the way early. Broken Social Scene does not achieve the level of bombast and grandeur Arcade Fire can whip up so easily, nor are their lyrics quite as expressive. Where they make their mark is the easy integration of electronic sounds (synths, drones) to their rock/pop instrumentation. The songs are often biased more toward one style or the other, but the listener can often be left guessing as to which sounds are organic or synthetic. Their agility in navigating style, tone, and tempo is a great strength.
“Chase Scene,” an early urgent and propulsive track, sets a fierce tone achieved through a heavier use of synths and layered vocals. It is immediately undercut by “Texico Bitches,” an upbeat pop tune that holds no forgiveness for the women of the named small town. (The reason for the hostility remains a mystery). The pendulum swings back for the next track, “Forced to Love,” with a heavy drum-and-base combo complemented by fuzzy guitars. Broken Social Scene then throws a curveball with “All in All.” The first of two tracks to have a female vocal (Lisa Lobsinger) on lead, the song’s electronic beat is subsumed by an echoing guitar build before it drops out entirely and gives way to a strings-and-vocal fade.
Forgiveness Rock Record contains other such surprises – the sweet “Highway Slipper Jam,” the misleading “Ungrateful Little Father,” which also finds forgiveness elusive, or the ’90s rock radio of “Water in Hell.” The only truly curious aspect of this album is the decision to close with the ode to masturbation, “Me and My Hand.” With an acoustic guitar and an M. Ward-like warble, the self-serious song seems like a send-up, and it’s hard to believe this is the final thought with which Broken Social Scene wants to leave the listener. Ah well. Count it as one last surprise from the band.