Broken Social Scene
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- Astoria, London »
- Broken Social Scene »
*Question of the Day *
I'm in a post-rock/avant-noise/folk-type band. We're not prepared to compromise our art to reach more people with what we do. We don't want to make it easy to swallow. We don't want to make music that sounds like everything that's so NOW right now. I've friends here making great music too, but we're from a country not in vogue and I don't want to sell my soul to the multi-million-funded market forces or advertising houses, nor The _OC_ producers. How do my friends and I begin to change the world and arise from a psuedo-elitist culture so we can touch people's hearts with our beautiful music? Do you think it'd work if we formed a poppier supergroup?
From: Lumberjack Shirtwearer c/o Constellation Records promo filing department. _
Beneath the big melodies, two drummers, (up to) six guitarists and the swathes of shimmering noises, deep in dank, echoey, turret basements locked away from the fiddlers and trumpeteers, you can hear the penny dropping. Somewhere else, a man asks:_ "This sounds so fresh and new and original... Where'd Arcade Fire get their ideas from?" _
This Canadian collective that's more like a commune - minus the naked children - with their swirling, stop the world and start it again, they could tell ye. Men with balding crowns in washed-to-fade obscure band tees play guitars and keys alongside a couple of ladies in thrift-store dresses who'd rather use hair straighteners to make toast.
"No support. Band onstage 8:15" reads the poster in the foyer. We're threatened with as many hours' performance as the band has albums (two 'proper', discounting a muted and very stylistically different debut and a b-sides collection) of Broken Social Scene or, to give them their full name, Broken Social Scene featuring members of Stars, Do Make Say Think, Metric (not here tonight), Feist, Stars, The Dears and everyone else in and around Arts & Crafts.
What am I about to put myself through?
The amazing, moondust-sprinkled 'Shoreline', placed second in the set, is a worrying sign that they've shot their load early. Half an hour in and I've already retracted my "I think I only like one or two tracks" statement made earlier in the pub. Song after song is as much an adventure through danceable rhythms and heart-melting melody as it is a grand, seven-minute opus.
This kind of Sonic Youth/Fugazi-ideals-inspired, music-first outfit - an ever-changing mêlée of side project types from bands that often feature within their ranks as many people onstage as are in the crowd - is a geek's soakingly wet dream. Tonight, together, at an upgraded and sold-out Astoria show, they and we are living the new prog-pop dream...
...Until the show passes the 90-minute point, anyway, and begins to run out of steam, failing to fully hold emotions and attention levels. It gets so that you're no longer so lost in an overwhelming flood of ideas, so you become aware of the worryingly close obsessives noting chord progressions. Some even have band member spotter jotters. The Wikipedia entry writers, the MySpace-obsessed and broadsheet readers: they're all alike, all hoping that, if they hold on, tonight they can tell people on blogs and in pubs that they were part of something at the core of this decade's cultural movement; a culture which has turned its back to the TV and thrown out its playlisted radio, in favour of broader, braver, more innovative things. Tonight is not so much about the songs but the_ ideas_ and the people coming together and the hope that, with so many congregating, so many more exciting things are possible on the horizon. The more success for the little weird guys who like minimalism as much as they hate Bush, pollution and bigotry, the more money they have to quit their jobs and focus on making music and to help fund the labels and promoters (like ATP tonight) who do it for music and not shareholders, ensuring that everything is sustainable and that a wider political movement to improve the world can follow. Or is this not about politics?
There's no awkward tension in the room. This is pure release, complete with hugs for the front row, all within spitting distance of London's infamous Rough Trade and Sister Ray emporiums, which are like breeding grounds for extremism in these times of celebrity culture worship. You've gotta hand it to BSS: they've totally worked out how to use spectacle and songwriting, not only to put a few bands on "to be listened to" lists, but to put a whole country's music scene on the map.
Fundamentally, this is a back window opened; you need never say 'compromise or die' ever again. Good times are gonna come.
Photos by: Amadeep Chana
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