Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene, The Most Serene Republic: Underwater Cinematographer

Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene
Arts & Crafts

The Most Serene Republic
Underwater Cinematographer
Arts & Crafts

Well, shit--is it any wonder these folks' social scene is broken? Judging by the sound of their self-titled third album, the only thing the dozen-or-so men and women in this sprawling Toronto-based indie-rock collective do is stay inside and tinker with their songs. Three years ago, when Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It in People found an audience with American hipsters likely unaware that singer-bassist Brendan Canning had spent time with the goofy Canadian hip-pop act Len, the band's sloppy home-studio excess sounded fresh, a more-is-more rejoinder to the bare-bones minimalism peddled by the Strokes and their neo-garage cohort.

These days, BSS's brainy maximalism is the Great White norm: Montreal's Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade have attracted loads of attention for not knowing when to say when, while Scenester Leslie Feist has made waves by tricking out art-folk tunes with disco trimmings. Which means that for Canning and his bandmates, too much may no longer be enough--it all has to mean something now. You won't find that meaning in Canning and co-frontman Kevin Drew's lyrics here, which are impossible to make out beyond a stray phrase or two anyway. "I really don't want to think about those things anymore," he sings in "Superconnected," indicating his literary aspirations.

Instead, the band finds purpose in rhythm and speed, unlikely reserves for indie rockers, who typically equate meaning with gravity, not force. In "7/4 (Shoreline)," Feist does a sexy Chrissie Hynde over an endless bass-and-drums groove; drummer Justin Peroff nearly drives "Superconnected" into a snare-roll ditch; rapper K-os drops a couple of quick verses into "Windsurfing Nation" without making the band sound like palsied, funkless squares.

You can hear BSS's influence all over the debut by the Most Serene Republic, another Toronto outfit big on bigness. Underwater Cinematographer is awash in instrumental detritus: organ ooze, guitar fuzz, laptop glitch, finger snaps. The band probably have a couple of pleasant post-Death Cab indie-pop tunes in them--"King of No One" even steps to Pat Metheny mall-jazz--but unlike the Socialites, they're still happily stuck in a multitrack vacuum, so nothing makes it out intact. They muster lots of sound, but precious little fury.

 
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