Broken Social Scene
Canadians think they're such hot shit -- what with their universal health care, lack of gun violence and Labatt Blue. Add to that a budding underground music scene that's slowly creeping its way to the surface, and you'll begin to understand what all the hubbub is aboot.
What a difference a decade makes. Nine years ago (that's a decade north of the border), Canadian music meant Alanis, Barenaked Ladies and Bryan Adams. Today it's home to some of the most highly lauded, inventive and ambitious musicians on earth. Yes, on earth! Toronto is the new London, Vancouver the new New York.
From that new London comes Broken Social Scene. The band sports six to 16 members on any given night -- imagine Godspeed You! Black Emperor writing coherent pop songs. BSS founder Kevin Drew -- whose former band, KC Accidental, borrowed heavily from Sprawling Theatrical Opus Writing for Dummies -- says it's been different this time around. "We've kind of opened up [to] singing actual songs, you know, coming from an instrumental background and deciding to write some four-minute songs as opposed to ten-minute songs." Was the transition tough? "Well, I sing so going from not singing to suddenly singing your guts out, that was a huge moment for me."
And it's been a successful transition. Their sophomore effort, You Forgot It in People, is an uncategorizable, strangely moving mix of guitar excess, bittersweet melody and bursts of avant noise. Since the CD's release, praise has rained down on the band from the likes of Rolling Stone, Pitchforkmedia.com and whoever it is that hands out those Canadian Grammys, not to mention Amazon.com, where user reviews of the record read not unlike a doting grandmother going on and on about little Suzy's performance in the school play.
Still, it's difficult to wrap your head around the amount of compromise it must take for a 16-member band to survive the creative process. Hell, Simon and Garfunkel couldn't keep it together, and they were only one and a half people. According to Drew, "The whole band is based upon tolerance and patience." It better be, because that forbearance will be put sorely to the test when they find themselves in Austin at South By Southwest, sharing a Stubb's BBQ stage with Texas's own 27-member group, Polyphonic Spree. That's a whole lot of link sausage sharing one green-room toilet.
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