The Canadian kids are alright

Indie-pop collective, Broken Social Scene hit the road and amp up the rock

Sally Hedberg

Canada can do music, eh? The country to the North has in fact established itself as a musical epicenter of sorts. Distinguished alternative acts such as Arcade Fire, Metric, and The New Pornographers have made a lasting impression within the alternative/indie scene and have even inched somewhat into the elite mainstream.

Also hailing from the land of cheap drugs and hockey is an enchanting group that can claim to be just as talented as the sum of its individual parts âÄî Broken Social Scene.

The Baroque-pop collective, formed in âÄô99, is touring with their fourth LP. âÄúForgiveness Rock Record,âÄù released five years after their third, self-titled album.  Though, this isnâÄôt to say theyâÄôve been loafing around eating bon bons for half a decade.

âÄúWe didnâÄôt really take a five-year break,âÄù said aptly named guitarist, Andrew Whiteman. âÄúThe lifespan of a record in terms of how much youâÄôre actually working and touring and promoting is around a year and a half. ItâÄôs normal.âÄù

During this period, the band has also kept busy with their various individual projects. Though they refuse to label themselves a super group, itâÄôs pretty apparent that the lineup boasts some hyped names in their own right. WeâÄôre talkinâÄô Emily Haines, Leslie Feist, Amy Millan and James Shaw.

Immersed in such a tight-knit community of musicians, the group has made it their artistic shtick to draw new talent into the lineup over time, though itâÄôs not always necessarily planned.

âÄúWe do tend to just pick up people along the road,âÄù Whiteman said. âÄúBut we have no conscious plans. We only have unconscious plans.âÄù

Since many of the members of Broken Social Scene do have thriving solo careers or outside musical endeavors, they are able to mediate their availability throughout the touring schedule; and despite the ever-changing lineup that takes the stage, they have no trepidations about delivering inconsistent performances.

âÄúThe show is a sacred ritual,âÄù Whiteman said.  âÄúIf we didnâÄôt think we could pull it off weâÄôd probably just quit.âÄù

While their earlier releases were defined by translucent vocal musings and lo-fi instrumentation, âÄúForgiveness Rock RecordâÄù presents listeners with more commanding and polished material. Harsh, roiling guitar riffs and powerful, driving vocals project a novel sense of certainty âÄî something that Whiteman attributes solely to influence of their talented producer, John McEntire.

The title of the album, though paradoxical, is meant to provoke thought.

âÄúThe idea is that maybe the more times people say the words together, they will actually have an effect and mean something,âÄù Whiteman said.

âÄúForgiveness Rock RecordâÄù leaked on the Internet nearly a month before its 2010 release date. But the band remains unfazed.

âÄúI steal albums off of the Internet all of the time,âÄù Whiteman said. âÄúWho doesnâÄôt? I mean, thatâÄôs just what the kids do. I wasnâÄôt bummed when it leaked at all. The shtick is now that you actually time your record release and prepare it for how itâÄôs going to get leaked.âÄù

As their tour presses on, the band communicates special enthusiasm about performing together again and with a lights show.

 âÄúWeâÄôre going to try and up the show, you know? Yeah weâÄôre really gonna give it, givâÄônâÄôr, as we say in Canada,âÄù Whiteman said.