by Jake Doolin
2017 might as well go down as the year that the band got back together. From the likes of Fleet Foxes, LCD Soundsystem, Slowdive, and now Broken Social Scene, getting the crew back for another go around has gained a resurgence. Comparatively, Broken Social Scene haven’t been gone to long, taking seven years to follow up their last record Forgiveness Rock Record, but it’s felt like quite a bit since we’ve heard from the Canadian collective. And for awhile we didn’t know if we ever would; band leader Kevin Drew was preoccupied with his solo work while other members of the band went off to their own separate projects.
But like a shot in the dark the first bit of new music from the band exploded on the scene with ‘Halfway Home’ a rapturous comeback single that borrowed heavily from the Arcade Fire theatrics book. On that single Kevin lays out the thesis for the new album as well as probably what was going through the band’s mind as they returned to this band.
“You’ve said we’re halfway home, you said survive”
It’s a desperate call, but as any Broken Social Scene fan can tell you the band works best in that mood, and while their new album Hug of Thunder isn’t close to their past work it’s still an inspiring work that suits the band well, for better or worse.
Perhaps the biggest problem going into this project was the lack of any clear direction or sound. The singles that teased up this release all seemed to give us a different view of what this album would be. The thematic leanings of the aforementioned ‘Halfway Home’ are abandoned on the next song, ‘Hug of Thunder’ which has the band returning to their standard rock grooves. Even the lyrical content was treading the same water that ‘Halfway Home’ already traveled.
Things weren’t helped out either with the third single, ‘Skyline’, which was probably the best song out of the bunch, but the one that signaled the biggest departure from the rest. Even in the context of the album the songs big pop production sounds out of place among the typical rock style the band affixed themselves to here.
That ultimately becomes the theme of the album unfortunately; instead of flowing organically from track to track it feels like each was it’s own world that connects only because they have to. Mix up the tracklisting in any order and you’d have essentially the same album.
So the trick becomes separating the good tracks from the bad and for Broken Social Scene fans there is enough of those here to warrant a listen.
‘Skyline’ would have worked great as an album closer with its group vocal delivery really selling this sense of community that the album was striving for. On the other end ‘Stay Happy’ is the summer jam I never knew I needed from the band. With its sunny groove and drum beat it’s a perfect song for laying out in the sun. Lastly, ‘Victim Lover’ and ‘Please Take Me With You’ sound like vintage BSS; hitting the right emotional notes while rocking out.
However, despite those highlights, Hug of Thunder just feels too scattershot, and at worse incomplete. Of course it’s nice to hear the band again and when they find the right notes it’s just as magical as hearing them a decade ago, but next time a greater focus on structure might help make things stick just a little more.
Hug of Thunder is out on July 7th via City Slang.