Scene Not Heard

"...5, 6, 7... oh no. We're a few band members short. Did somebody leave John Zorn behind at the last rest stop?" Broken Social Scene
Tag Team Media
Broken Social Scene
You Forgot It in People
Paper Bag

The world is filled with artists who are in love with the idea of being Artists. A group of expatriate writers in Paris cafés talking about books they'll never write. A grizzled 20-something dude scrawling in his journal in the back of some dank bar. An aspiring painter wearing paint-splattered clothing just to impress women. What unites these people is simple: The fact that they make art is more important than the art they end up making.

Toronto collective Broken Social Scene choose process over product with a resounding yelp, and it's just about the only thing they can agree on. The band's second album, You Forgot It in People (Paper Bag), is a fractured mess of dirty pop, drawn and quartered by the disparate pulls of each member's ego. It's a behind-the-scenes documentary, a work-in-progress, a scrapbook, a post-it-note doodle, a splattered palette. On album opener "Capture the Flag" the group warms up with keyboard hums and gauzy tones, and in "Looks Just Like the Sun," studio banter rides shotgun with the hazy melody, gently coaxing it with "keep going" and "here we go." Then they're off genre-hopping like Polynesian hunter-gatherers in search of sustenance. As each of the 10 band members who plays on the album gets a stab at the spotlight, You Forgot It in People veers from psychedelia to garage rock to adult contemporary to Tropicali without so much as a "Land ho!"

Comprised of members from Stars, Metric, A Silver Mt. Zion, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, everybody in Broken Social Scene is somebody, but the large number of people in this outfit means that, musically, nobody is anybody. And a band filled with 10 Artists who are all nobodies is only suited for one thing: jamming. So that's what they do: Most of You Forgot It in People was conceived through live rehearsal, with songs hinging on groove more than melody, and at times, the forced eclecticism feels more like a Gimme Indie Rock comp than a cohesive statement. Which might be why Broken Social Scene is much more impressive live than on wax: In concert, such sudden shifts in mood and genre are belied by audience reaction, making the changes communal, not selfish--there's a genuine give and take between artist and performer. When the crowd feels like they're part of the action, they're much happier to oblige when a sweat-drenched frontman wants to "take it down a notch for this next number."

Sometimes Broken Social Scene get so caught up in experimenting that they confuse their own desires with what their audience might enjoy. Thankfully, a trio of cuts from You Forgot It in People do more than prove the band's amorphous abilities. "Stars and Sons" bites the Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" with its incremental bass line and taut repetitiveness. "Almost Crimes (Radio Kills Remix)" is Fleetwood Mac acknowledging punk's existence (or maybe the Strokes gone Broadway?) with exhilarating call-and-response male and female vocals soaring above supercharged guitar riffs and messy squeals of feedback. The best track, "Lover's Spit," sounds like it's documenting Jerry Falwell's wake-up call on the set of a Jenna Jameson porno; Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew mourns, "All these people drinking lover's spit/Sit around and clean their face with it." Let's say it together: Ewww!

On a porn set, there might be 20 people working to shoot one scene, but everyone's focused on the money shot centerpiece. Now imagine a porn set with 20 people trying to fuck each other, and everyone's outfitted with cameras and lights and boom mics and whathaveyous. That's more like Broken Social Scene's skin flick. There're flashes of titillation, but everyone's too busy following their own script to get anyone off.

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