And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': November 2008

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Friday, November 07, 2008

Broken Social Scene live at the Bronson Centre

Since the Island festival concert of 2006 in Toronto, I hadn't seen
BSS play a live show. Up until that point, in fact, my life had been
completely BSS-less. (Many people think I have been possessed or
drugged by the members of the band to write gold about them.)
On October 25th, I had the chance to see Broken Social Scene for
a second time in a live setting. For all of their grandeur and
media-projected hype, one thing is certain; any band who can
keep an audience entranced for nearly three hours can project
any kind of hype they want.

The night started with a long line as my wife and I met a few
of our concert-going amigos (Dan and Emily) who had already been
standing for a few hours in the cold October night. With two other
random people appearances (one I won't mention and the other was
Marc-Andre and his wacky caffeine-guzzling school friends) while the
four of us tried to stay warm, Brendan Canning walked by us and
high-fived a few cheering line-standers. A few minutes after,
Kevin Drew, Andrew Whiteman and a few others walked by going
the other direction as Canning. After a few false alarms, the line
started to seep in. We found some sweet seats and were pleased to
see that the Bronson centre was an all-sitting venue.

Land Of Talk opened. Chick rock mediocrity. And then it happened.
BSS took over the stage in full throttle. Ripping into '7/4 Shoreline'
only 3 songs in seemed to be somewhat of an early trap door that left
me wondering 'Where are they gonna go from here?' What was
ultra-cool about the communal aspect of Broken Social that night,
though, was that each member with a solo record got to showcase a
bit of their own material with the band backing them.

Andrew 'Apostle Of Hustle' Whiteman seemed a little surprised
when Kevin Drew motioned for Andrew, Brendan and the drummer
(Justin) to stay on stage and everyone else to leave. The song, however,
came to life with only three musicians playing ('National Anthem Of
Nowhere') and helped re-ignite my love for The Apostle's straight-ahead,
guitar-driven, drum-thumping style (and of course swelled when the horn
section re-appeared for the climactic ending along with Kevin adding
in another layer of guitar).

Brendan Canning (the unsung leader of the band and bassist) also
stepped up to bat for a few of his solo album tracks such as 'Hit The
Wall' and 'Churches Under The Stairs'. Though he didn't seem as
confident as the others, his songs carried and filled up sonic space
with their builds and bass-driven tempos. Canning was one of the most
interesting players to watch for the duration of the evening.

Another ingredient to the batch was Sammy Goldberg who performed
one of his songs (which Drew called 'a real bump-and-grinder') titled
'A Hundred Thousand Miles'. It was apparently the extra guitarist
and bassist's first time playing the song for his wife (who was in the
audience that night). This was one of the most awkwardly un-fitting
moments of the night...but somehow, it still worked.

One of the highlights of the evening (and 'weird-lights' if I can coin a
phrase) was Charles Spearin's science project. He had taped his
neighbour (who had a seriously thick Jamaican accent) talking about
'happiness'. He played the tape once so the audience could hear the
interesting inflections in the lady's voice. On the second play-through,
Charles called the main sax player back to the stage who then replicated
the exact sounds of the lady's speech (note for note) alongside of the
lady's talking.

Stepping into some rather big shoes that night was Elizabeth Powell
from the opening band 'Land Of Talk'. Powell not only put on a decent
set with her two bandmates for the opener but then proceeded to sing
all of the female vocal parts for every BSS song that night (obviously,
with the fame of Millan, Haines and Lady Feist, they can't all make it
to every BSS show).

Overall, the band seemed a bit tired (as the usually disheveled looking
Kevin Drew belted out his vocals and pelvic-ized against the mic stand) but
they pulled it together when it counted. For big finishes on big songs (like
'It's All Gonna Break' which was the first of 2 options given to the crowd
for a choice of encore), they ramped it up, brought out the horns, Charles
Spearin switched from guitar to brass, Sammy Goldberg would point
his instrument into the crowd like a gun, Whiteman would jump around
and kick a lot, Peroff would beat the hell out of the skins, Canning would
just jump in place and flop his hair about and Drew would turn red from
wailing. I think the magic of this band is that they each bring something
to the table of the feast of a live performance and cause the crowd to
want to see what each member is doing at any given moment.

Almost three hours after starting, Drew claimed 'This is the last of these
shows we'll be doing, where we play our old stuff, for a thank
you for coming. It means a lot'. Obviously, every band has to navigate
through new terrain but that statement left me thinking that move was
perhaps a little premature and pretentious on the band's part. I mean,
really - if Radiohead can still play live songs from 'The Bends' twelve
years after the fact, I think that BSS can manage a few 6 year old songs.
Time and time again, though, Broken Social has proven that despite
the hype, they can deliver when it comes to live performances.

Who knows what the future will hold for BSS - but October 25th was a
night I won't soon forget.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

(Broken Social Scene Presents) Brendan Canning
Something For All Of Us

It’s hard to look outside the umbrella of the Arts & Crafts
label these days as its spread seems to be rather all-encompassing.
With an army of able-bodied and hyper-creative musicians at
their disposal, it’s hard not to get sucked into the vortex-like
vibe that A&C projects as it draws on so many attractive features
of music; community, male and female artists, varied
instrumentation, artist cross-contribution on different
projects, twenty performer live shows, etc. It’s no wonder
why we can’t seem to find our way out from under the
umbrella – we like the look of things underneath it (and
it’s also just…a massive umbrella).

Brendan Canning released ‘Something For All Of Us’ (the
second solo offering in a series of ‘Broken Social Scene
Presents’ albums) in July. Upon an initial internet album
leak, Brendan left a note on the A & C website detailing
that he was none too pleased with the song-thief. Despite
the leak, the album shows a mitt full of swelling, sonically
layered songs that have needed to get out of Mister
Canning for some time now. As the bus-driving bassist
of BSS, many of the songs have the bass-line right up
front in the mix, pushing the song onward. ‘Hit The
Wall’ is one these bass-driven beauties that makes you
feel like hopping into your station wagon and finding an
expressway at nightfall. With sparse yet hypnotic
guitar-picking parts laced on top of the track, its
‘what-will-happen-next’ feel keeps the listener linked
into the song’s speeding inner-wheel. The ending
overture of ‘Hit The Wall’ seems to present the idea
of someone who has left a lot of people behind as the
refrain repeats:
'You used to have it all and it's all gone'

Though it can be difficult to understand the message
(and sometimes even make out the words behind the
vocal filters) of Brendan’s songs, one thing is certain;
Brendan invests himself into each song and sets a
community-centered scene. Whether it’s the
wintry-mellow acoustic setting of ‘Snowballs And Icicles’
or the melodic vocals of his buddies Kevin Drew
and Feist on ‘Churches Under The Stairs’, the tracks
not only feature Brendan’s talents but the talents of
his friends and his musical community.

Unfortunately for the reader, it seems that I’ve been
enjoying more and more of what I listen to these days.
Now, I know it’s always fun to point a finger, chuckle
and read about an album getting ripped to shreds by
predatory music reviewers - but take heed; a good
review (when done objectively) is a good thing. It might
even mean that there is still hope for good music. As
the title of the album would indicate, Brendan Canning
indeed lets us know that there just might be
‘Something For All Of Us’ within these songs.

free site statistics