Like many, many music lovers, you will, I’m sure, have albums you’ll always want to go back to. Albums that really affected you the first time you heard them and you then listened to a lot, and still continue to revisit. There’s quite a few that fit into that category for me. There are perhaps the more obvious ones I might file under ‘classics’ such as output by The Beatles, not of my generation, but no less impacting on my music-listening for it. And there are ones that hark back to my adolescence, such as LPs by Nirvana and Radiohead for example. Then there are the ones I heard as I became someone vaguely resembling an adult, records by Elliott Smith immediately springing to mind.
You might not regard Broken Social Scene as a big hitter compared to the artists I’ve just mentioned. And arguably the band isn’t in terms of fame or notoriety. But their album ‘You Forgot It In People’ is an album I really became hooked on and still get the urge to listen to completely out of the blue. Of course releasing something that people love can be a blessing and a curse. It’s natural for an artist to want to create a work that is of lasting value to their audience. But the flipside might be they are forever judged on that work. Bearing this firmly in mind I am going to try my hardest not to do this with ‘Hug Of Thunder’ despite ‘You Forgot It In People’ being such a significant record for me.
The first thing I immediately love about ‘Hug Of Thunder’ is it sounds big and modern without the group compromising their sonic identity. It seems to benefit from up to date production and mastering without messing with the overall character of the album. If nitpicking, I might assert the band’s appealing rougher edges have been smoothed out a little somehow, but I’m sure with a few listens I can recalibrate my ears and this won’t feel too detrimental. Following the opening ambience of ‘Soi Luna’, long-term fans of Broken Social Scene will be ecstatic to hear ‘Halfway Home’ blasting out of their speakers. With a giant jolt to the senses, it’s as if Broken Social Scene have never been away. There’s a big hooky, anthemic quality to this song which I’m sure will mean it goes down well live. ‘Protest Song’ keeps things moving nicely with an earthy bass sound and really appealing female vocal lines. The female vocals are a key ingredient for me in the Broken Social Scene sound, intermittently adding that all important extra dimension.
‘Skyline’ takes things down a notch but still retains the big atmosphere that’s already the overarching key characteristic of this record. If you’re going to come back after seven years I guess it might as well be with a bang. With ‘Stay Happy’ and ‘Vanity Pail’ we have something of a detour in terms of song structure, which will come as no surprise to Broken Social Scene aficionados, as they’ve never been ones to go out of their way to be conventional. With ‘Hug Of Thunder’ though we’re back to catchy rock, be it with more of a slow build centered around a really chunky groove and of course the unmistakable vocals of Feist. A really beautiful track with an ethereal quality to it, yet a solid toe-tapper at the same time.
‘Towers and Masons’ allows the group to indulge their trippier side – check out the brassy interludes and jangly guitar veneer not to mention the video game bleeps. ‘Victim Lover’ prolongs the luscious draw of the brass sounds and somehow verges on the otherworldly before ‘Please Take Me With You’ provides a fitting sense of winding down, a feeling further extended with ‘Gonna Get Better’. Just when you think the record’s over though there’s yet another irresistible bass groove ushering in ‘Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse’, which really is the more fitting conclusion, as this hard-hitting low end is one of the most distinctive aspects of this LP. The track transitions into an all-out barrage of sound to compound an overriding feeling this is a band that has now more than cemented their place in the alt-rock canon with this majestic return of an album. See. Didn’t mention that other record once.
‘Hug Of Thunder’ is out now on Arts & Crafts.