The Lineup

Broken Social Scene

Toronto, Ontario

It’s tempting to get lost in the history and prolificacy of Toronto’s Broken Social Scene. After all, the band—known to range in number from a two-piece in the early days to 18 on some stages—has helped to launch or bolster the careers of Feist, Metric, Stars, Jason Collett, Do Make Say Think, Land of Talk and Apostle of Hustle, among others. The collective has backed founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning on a set of exceptional Broken Social Scene Presents… records that were solo only in name. These people play well together. Broken Social Scene, then, is more than the sum of its three LPs—it’s a flagship and a mothership, the place from which “1 2 3 4” and “Elevator Love Letter” come. 

But it’s difficult to think about too much when Broken Social Scene, the proper band, is playing. With a three-guitar army, a love of group-singing and a litany of keyboards, electronics, horns and whatever you might think you could use to make the best anthems better, Broken Social Scene makes heroic, overwhelming and unforgettably grand rock music. Against all odds, and against all the stars in their crew, the sound overcomes the, well, scene.

Though Canning and Drew started as a delicate, diaphanous duo dedicated to textures and hums, Broken Social Scene’s concern became emphatic rock hymns by the time they released You Forgot it in People in 2002—and by the time they played Raleigh for the only time the next year at Kings Barcade. That new approach became even bigger on a self-titled 2005 follow-up. Early cuts of their forthcoming Forgiveness Rock Record, recorded in Chicago with Tortoise’s John McEntire, suggest they’ve never been better or bigger: “World Sick,” “Forced to Love” and “All to All” exclaim that someone’s finally rescued the floundering legacy of U2, again making grandiose but somehow restrained rock that knows how to settle down, too. It’s the urgent, embracing sort of music that makes writers want to call a band the “next big thing.” But Broken Social Scene’s been huge—in personnel, in power and, now, in popularity—for almost a decade. —Grayson Currin