After a seven year hiatus Toronto’s 15 piece, indie juggernaut Broken Social Scene are back. Their new album “Hug of Thunder” opens with a short ambient track that is immediately followed by the frenetic and ambitious “Halfway Home.” With seemingly endless layering, the second track sets the tone for the rest of this triumphant return album. Broken Social Scene push the envelope in several of their songs, flirting at times with falling victim to their own ambition; incredibly complex layering often blurs the line between grandiloquence and brilliance, however, Broken Social Scene handle staying within the fringes of the latter with aplomb.
Broken Social Scene have an uncanny knack to contradict musical norms. Syrupy sweet melodies and incredibly catchy/singable songs superficially obscure meaningful lyrics. Complex, long instrumental interludes do little to take away from the listenability of otherwise totally accessible tracks. The aforementioned second track “Halfway Home” combines these elements- incredible complexity, powerful lyrics, and a larger than life, anthemic chorus- to create the album’s most memorable track.
While “Hug of Thunder” and Broken Social Scene’s 2010 release “Forgiveness Rock Record” share significant commonalities, the political climate in which the two albums were released could not be further incongruent. The throwback emphasis on community, compassion, and perhaps even hedonistic values preached by the 15 piece Toronto group are in relatively short supply today. Does this make this album better by default? No. But does it make this return album a welcome breath of fresh air? Absolutely.