REVIEW: Broken Social Scene: You Forgot it in People
Broken Social Scene: You Forgot it in People [Arts & Crafts/Paper Bag, 2002] (sample)
Three words? Punchdrunk rock'n'roll dream
You Forgot it in People is the best thing to come out of Toronto since, um... Hayden? My parents? The Royal Ontario Museum? Maybe it's the best thing since Do Make Say Think, K.C. Accidental, Stars, Treble Charger (!), Metric, By Divine Right, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir and Raising the Fawn, all of which lend members to Broken Social Scene. Maybe. All I know is that this record is too good for Toronto: too cool, too accomplished, too modest. Though the ten contributing musicians make it a supergroup, Broken Social Scene merely sounds like a refreshing, innovative and cohesive rock band. David Newfeld's production is among the best I've ever heard - this is a driven alt.pop jam, dazzling songs that blend into and onto each-other, that sound wonderful: rich, thick, dynamic.
The band's debut, 2001's Feel Good Lost was for the most part an ambient snore (think Beta Band at its sleepiest). You Forgot it in People begins where Feel Good Lost left off; "Capture the Flag" is shimmering synths, glimmers of rhodes, hints of horn. It fades to a close, however, and moments later comes the drum assault of "KC Accidental," with all the momentum of Do Make Say Think's instrumental punch-ups. Just as we get comfortable in the guitar-and-cymbal feedback groove, there comes a chorus of weaving voices. "All your kind they're coming clean / they shut their eyes / they miss their scenes." Violins blossom; noise builds; bombastic crescendo; vanishing sounds.
The record throws out surprise after surprise, voices coming through with unexpected textures (folk-immediate on "Stars and Sons," garage-hiss on "Almost Crimes," mellow murmur on "Looks Just Like the Sun," mechano-sultry on "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-old Girl"). Melodic instrumentals brush seamlessly against strange pop tunes; flickerings of flute, sax, mandolin show up in the most wonderful places. "Cause = Time" could score in alt.rock radio, "Shampoo Suicide" in an after-hours club, "I'm Still Your Fag" in a coffee-house. "Pitter Patter Goes My Heart" is from an alternate universe where the members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor aren't afraid to smile, or to record a piece that clocks in at under 2:30.
The challenge that all super-groups face is to create a record that doesn't merely sound like the compilation of fifteen musicians' disparate ideas; to record an album that is a whole. Broken Social Scene - like The Reindeer Section - have succeeded in this, but You Forgot it in People is not perfect. Though it's a real-live record, far more than a motley assortment of songs (and for this, Newfeld deserves much recognition), it lacks any precise mission - it has no thesis. As a musical journey You Forgot it in People is a delight - pleasurable, exciting, mature - but I am not sure that it has any destination in sight, nor that at its close I am anywhere different from where I started.
That said, this remains an absolutely excellent record, ranking among the best that Canada's pop scene has produced. It's sad, then, that due to a cockamamie copyright protection scheme, this CD won't play in my brand-name walkman. It will (no surprise here) play on my computer, mind you, where I can (and have) ripped and burned the tracks. Nevertheless, the sheer inconvenience of this is enough for me to dock .5 from my rating for the album. Never has music this good tried so hard not to be heard.
You Forgot it in People is a triumph in innovative rock music, proof that there are new visions to be set to wax. It is also the year's best - and only - argument for moving to Toronto. Maybe there's something magical (hopeful, wounded and cathartic) in their water.