For a good number of years, All Tomorrow's Parties dominated my musical discoveries. 2008 was the start of that - Explosions in the Sky curated a weekend and had one of my favourite bands, The Paper Chase, playing. We saw some excellent bands that weekend, and went to the festival as often as I could for the four years that followed (and beyond, but they ran into actually-holding-the-event issues, which was a shit). That EITS weekend I saw Broken Social Scene for the third time. I'd been introduced to them by the song Ibi Dreams of Pavement on a mix cd I'd been sent from Australian Kate in 2006, and saw them play an incredible set at Pukkelpop that summer.
The ATP performance in 2008 has come to be my main memory of seeing them - they had musicians from so many other bands on stage with them and the set was just perfect. ATP later gave out mp3s of the whole set to anyone who became a "member", a paid-for privilege that I definitely got my money's-worth from - every so often they'd offer free tickets to gigs for members and I was living in London at the time, so went to a lot of shows. They also gave you advance booking, which meant I got to see Mogwai in the tiny Hoxton Bar and Grill. Anyway, all that means I'm very familiar with the set from the recording, but I also have distinct visual memories of seeing Explosions and J Mascis on stage with them, as well as seeing them play Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl, a song I absolutely love. I've seen them six times now, and they basically alternate between blowing me away and hugely underwhelming me - I think I tend to remember how great the last time was, build my hopes up to unreasonable proportions, get underwhelmed, then go in with very low expectations and get blown away again. The last time I saw them was great though. Broken Social Scene were a prime example of the sort of music my ATP-years involved, and I bought many albums from all the related bands from that Canadian Arts & Crafts scene.
In July 2008, Virgin Megastore was in a dire situation and closing stores all over the place. Loads of cheap stock was getting sent to the Cardiff store before it finally closed, so there were constantly cardboard boxes of random cds appearing. I spent more in those last few weeks than I did at any other time in a Virgin Megastore, which probably says a lot. One find was Kevin Drew's solo album, billed as a "Broken Social Scene Presents" album, which ticked by BSS / Arts & Craft box very nicely. He's clearly the member of the band that wants them to be a rock band, and the album is quite basic rock music, but enjoyable.
In December I found the second in the "Broken Social Scene Presents" series, Brendan Canning's Something For All of Us in Spillers. Brendan is clearly the member of the band that is the opposite of Kevin Drew. The intersection of these two albums is almost BSS in entirety, and the exact reason why they're so good. It seems that Kevin is pulling them in one direction, and Brendan the other and somewhere in the middle they meet and write excellent music.
All of this is a long way of trying to describe this album without actually committing to do so. The reason for that is that I'm struggling to find the words. Being a mathematician, I'm left with
BSS - "rock" = this album,
which is probably the closest I can get. There are songs on the BSS albums where it's just a bit of a soundscape and less of a song; there's a lot of that here. There's a 60's-ish, floaty feel to it all, which doesn't do it for me. I couldn't tell you of any highlights because nothing really stands out. Kevin Drew's album felt like it was made of traditional, simple songs, so it's easier to break it down and feel some sort of connection to it. I don't get that here. (It's worth noting that the Kevin Drew album isn't great by any stretch, but it has many aspects of good music that I'm missing here). This song is okay, Churches Under the Stairs, but I fully acknowledge that it's because it sounds like a perfectly average BSS song, the sort that sits between the good BSS songs that I suspect Kevin Drew had more of an influence on. There are some fun horns on Love is New, but I'd prefer it considerably as an instrumental song.
I hoped, as is often the case, that writing about this album would finally endear it to me more, but that hasn't happened. They can't all be winners.
Format: 12", picture sleeve
Cost: £9.50 new
Bought: Spiller's Records, Cardiff
mp3s: Download code