Broken Social Scene and the New Pornographers
Forgiveness Rock Record, and Together (Arts & Crafts)
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., May 21, 2010
Broken Social SceneForgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)
The New PornographersTogether (Matador)
Two Canadian supergroups, one release date, and no clear winner. Broken Social Scene's long-awaited Forgiveness Rock Record opens with "World Sick," a euphoric guitar rave-up that condenses the collective's sprawling urgency into seven minutes of communal ecstasy. That tightly wound energy carries the first half of the album with an immediacy even greater than 2003's seminal You Forgot It in People, balanced by the single "Forced to Love"; the thrilling, electronic "Chase Scene"; and "Texico Bitches," a snappy indictment of big oil. Unfortunately, BSS spreads itself too thin on the back nine, which, with the noted exception of Emily Haines' yearning "Sentimental X's," sounds like solo project B-sides (Kevin Drew's dream echo "Sweetest Kill" and closer "Me and My Hand") and studio outtakes (instrumental "Meet Me in the Basement," "Highway Slipper Jam"). In the other corner, the New Pornographers hasn't equaled the sum of its parts since 2005's Twin Cinema, and fifth LP Together overcompensates toward that aim. The Vancouver octet layers lavish string arrangements and huge group choruses over its trademark, idiosyncratic power-pop, smothering the listener in the process – just try and pinpoint Will Sheff's guest vocals in the opening churn of A.C. Newman's "Moves." Highlights like the AM radio gold of the Neko Case-led "Crash Years" and Sabbath-esque "Your Hands (Together)" and the overall orchestral bombast are counterbalanced by Dan Bejar's antagonistic narratives (the off-kilter piano pop of "Silver Jenny Dollar" and slow waltz "Daughters of Sorrow"), but you get the feeling they're all leaving some choice cards up their individual sleeves.