"You like the new album, right?" Broken Social Scene's producer/part-time player David Newfeld asks at the end of our conversation. "We didn't follow up with a shit [record] like some of these people are saying?"
Detractors have been almost as tough on the self-titled, third long-player from the band who broke Canada's ambitious rock scene as New York City cops were on "Newf" last July. He suffered a pair of broken ribs and black eyes during an arrest for allegedly buying grass off a crack dealer in Washington Square. (By the way, after three searches, including one strip search, no marijuana was found on Newf, and to show his displeasure with the erroneous charges, he's proceeding with a civil suit for false arrest and excessive force.) Among the album's criticisms: the lyrics are incomprehensible, and when deciphered, aren't substantial or profound; excessive mixing-board magic obscures the songs' essence; and, at 21 studio players, there are too many hands on the joystick.
"I read the reviews," Newf says. "And I'm affected by them."
These same critics couldn't stop gushing over Newf's previous—and first—album with BSS, You Forgot It in People. It was an out-of-the-blue success owing to time and place (the absence of hype didn't hurt either), and it elevated Newf from a suit-wearing corporate disc jockey to a Juno Award–winning musician. The People record offered an expansive alternative to garage rock, and it came from Toronto of all places, a locale with a population that was under the spell of house music. Suddenly, hipsters who otherwise might have moved to Williamsburg were infiltrating the city BSS shared with the Dears and now-defunct Unicorns, and later Montreal, where expatriates Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire now reside.
For writers to laud People and lambaste Broken Social Scene is hogwash. The latter is a natural progression of the former, an audacious refusal to piggyback on bygone styles. Guitar rock and pop vignettes are elaborated upon with horns, strings, keys, percussion, samples, hocus-pocus, and the pipes of an all-star cast, including Leslie Feist from Feist, Emily Haines from Metric, Andrew Whiteman from Apostle of Hustle, and members of Stars, among others, and painstakingly coalesced into triumphant, hand-clap, toe-tap, guitar-swelling grooves.
"It's like a paint job on a car," Newf says of his piecemeal approach to composing songs. "You do it in some shitty base color and no one notices it, then you paint it a beautiful shiny black, and the chrome really shows, and everyone is like, that's a fucking cool-looking car."
Broken Social Scene appeals to all types of Sunday drivers. "Windsurfing Nation" has the urgency of redheaded Lola racing through her three cinematic scenarios. Over drummer Justin Peroff's breakneck dance beats, the refrain "All they want is a free ride" anchors Feist's chants of "We won't be what you want to be... Oh, no!" and Tricky knock-off K-OS's roller-coaster rhymes. For "Swimmers," Haines, whose "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" was a breakout track on People, improvised the sexy throwaway lyric "If you always get up late you'll never be on time" atop Brendan Canning's walk-in-the-park bass line. Meanwhile, Kevin Drew continues the scatological, bi-curious themes of People's "Lover's Spit" and "I'm Still Your Fag" with "It's All Gonna Break," a 10-minute BSS oldie that finally made it onto disc with the intention—according to the liner notes—of sounding like Bob Seger on acid. Drew's opening lines: "When I was a kid you fucked me in the ass... Now I love that shit, that shit tastes so good."
Of Drew, who shares head-honcho duties with Canning, Newf says, "He doesn't give a fuck, basically. I mean, he's not gay. I don't think he's straight. I don't know what he is. He loves to say that kind of shit 'cause most people won't say that. You know what I mean? Most people will be like, 'Oh, everyone will think I'm gay or something, and I don't know if I want people to think that.'"
Well, Newf, that's exactly the attitude you should adopt toward the naysayers who inspired your initial question, because the follow-up isn't shit. Rather, it's an undeniably exuberant collage of inventive tunes whose rare moments of indulgence and gimmickry are for the most part relegated to the seven-song, limited edition EP. Twenty bucks says you can't make it a hat trick with the next email@example.com