By: Stuart Tidy
10 July, 2017, 21:00
Broken Social Scene have been somewhat illusive for the last seven years with various members, which now expand to 19, working on other projects. The Toronto based collective which began, at its core, as an instrumental duo which has members involved with Metric, Feist and Apostle of Hustle to mention a few, have finally come back together to create something which gathers tones from previous work and infusing it with a contemporary sharpness. Hug Of Thunder does this to an extent, but with mixed results.
The opening track ‘Sol Luna’ is a short intro which harks back to the bands first album; being an ambient post rock instrumental worthy of Mogwai, it drifts in and out with a soothing patience. You are then jerked from your seat by the snappy follow up ‘Halfway home’. The production from this point on has a clear character. It is snipped and punchy compared with previous records. The drums in particular have an intense and compressed pop sound which drives the music forward. It’s a real stomper to get the album going and is almost too well written in the way it ticks all the boxes so overtly but that shouldn’t remove from its enjoyment. As a loud and proud Baroque pop piece, it is a real achievement and shows a great culmination of talent.
‘Protest Song’ follows in a similar vein switching to a female lead vocal. The groove and momentum of this track is much more infectious as the drums dance with a swimming scatter of beats and the guitar tickles a lead line which adds to the pace as it leaps from once section to the next. The pre-chorus really ignites an anticipation with a thoroughly satisfying pay off. They then switch moods with ‘Skyline’ which makes effective use of the numerous vocalists creating a choral semi country feeling sing-a-long which perhaps nods to John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’. By the end of the last chorus it becomes increasingly difficult not to join in.
In much the same way Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots tends to keep a similar time signature throughout the album to cultivate an immersive feel; it becomes apparent by ‘Stay Happy’ that a similar approach is being used here. It plays like a Scissor Sisters effort with it’s flamboyant swing and muted fuzz bass line. One of the more interesting tracks with noticeably evocative lyrics it ends a strong opening half of the album the heights of which it doesn’t reach so much after. ‘Vanity Pail Kids’ is a song the album could have done without. The chorus appears early on and shouts it’s hook with confidence but the music seems to lumber into confusion in between with no satisfying lead in . It reminded me of one of the those 80’s movie credit rolling pop tracks that rattles on in a throwaway manner and seems to go on endlessly.
In contrast, the title track ‘Hug of Thunder’ is possibly the best on the album. It has an industrial sounding eeriness similar to Joy Divisions’ ‘Closer’, further exemplified by the thin plucking bass line. With an intriguing narrative style female vocal it builds and reaches conclusion beautifully and after the previous track feels like a real breath of fresh air. The remaining five songs have a balanced composition and are performed expertly but contrary to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots which has a well thought out theme and overall psychedelic sound; I feel it loses your interest due to having a bit of an identity crisis. The immediate and starkly dynamic tracks in the first half don’t sit well alongside the understated indie soundscape style of the second half. It almost feels as it they have combined several recording sessions of differing focus from the hiatus period. The individual songs are generally of a very high standard, however and I’m in no way putting down their efforts. I simply feel it doesn’t sit well as a complete album.
Hug Of Thunder is out now via City Slang.