[Photo Credit: Kirsten Spruch]
Formed way back when in 1999, Broken Social Scene
is a musical project unlike any other. Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning act as the glue that holds BSS together, as they serve as the core members at the center of a project that includes contributions from up to sixteen artists. From the start, BSS has received mixed reviews from critics, some who absolutely adored what it was that they were doing and the unique way in which they were doing it, and others who were utterly confused and couldn't grasp what it was that they were listening to. I've somehow found myself in the middle of both of these things, because I've heard bands of 5 people not be able to create good music together, let alone 16 people–and I can't seem to wrap my head around how it works so very well for them, and has done so for so long. The band released five albums with various artists coming and going along the way before they began a hiatus in 2010 that would stretch into a 7 year break. Now, after all of this time, they are back with their brand new album Hug of Thunder.
Hug of Thunder
begins with "Sol Luna," a soft instrumental forerunner to "Halfway Home"–a loud, rocky track that scared me when it first came on (quick reminder to make sure your volume isn't up too high if you enjoy having fully functioning eardrums.) On a sweeter note, "Protest Song" opens with and is carried by a soft female voice–but unfortunately, the track proves to be somewhat boring and repetitive up until the last 30 seconds of the song. This trend of overwhelming tracks continues throughout the better part of the rest of the album. You would think that with so many artists contributing to the creation of a project, it would be impossible for any one song to sound the same as another; but, if you thought that you would be entirely wrong. The more acoustic tracks such as "Skyline" and "Victim Lover" could be played one after the other and I'd probably mistake them for the same song. On their own, the songs are quality tracks, they just lack the unique qualities that you would expect from a project of this magnitude.
Breaking up some of the slow burning tracks, "Vanity Pail Kids" gives Hug of Thunder
the rough, banging kick that it needs to wake everyone up. This track serves as a perfect song to dance and singalong to, and there aren't many like this on the album so it's definitely one to appreciate more. The sound of tracks like this and "Stay Happy" do a much better job of showcasing how much fun it can be to have so many people craft and mold a single song. I can't help but wish Broken Social Scene would have replicated more songs of this type rather than the slower songs. "Towers and Masons" isn't as face paced as the aforementioned tracks, but it still does a great job of getting listeners pumped.
Sadly, these fun tracks are scarce on this album, and we are quickly met with more slow burning tracks, like the title track and "Please Take Me With You." Funny enough, second to last track on the album, "Gonna Get Better," actually marks where the album gets better. This song takes a little while to get into and the way it begins gives the impression that it's just another plain song–that is, until the drums and bass kick in and you realize you're in for a pleasant ride. The reassuring message "things are gonna get better, 'cause they can't get worse" within the chorus fall in line with the band's stable missionary tone. The final track on the album "Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse" ends Hugs of Thunder
the same way that it began: with a sweetly innocent instrumental opening followed by yet another unexpected crash two and a half minutes into the song. It's nice to have the album end in such a loud and powerful way, but that really just reminds you of all you could have gotten had there not been so many tracks that were near identical. Nevertheless, it's good to have Broken Social Scene back. The band's world tour has already begun, and any BSS fan knows that their energetic live show with approx. 500 band members on stage is one that can't be missed.