The sound is there, but the songs are not.Arts & Crafts, 2017
5.5 / 10
Broken Social Scene was at the forefront of the post-Strokes indie rock revolution. They, along with bands like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, started “the Canadian Invasion.” After 6 years away, the group returns with Hug of Thunder. While they still bring that same crowded sound, the songs aren’t that great. Instead, it ends up feeling like there was no real reason to return.
Perhaps it feels like a comeback of sorts because the world has changed so much in just the last few years. A band like Broken Social Scene has always seemed vaguely political. Many Canadian bands took shots at the Bush administration in the early aughts. Maybe it was too much to hope for more of a statement from the group. Still, they haven’t completely dropped the ball with Hug of Thunder.
Their ambitions are still high. They manage to come up with all sorts of unpredictable rhythms and guitar textures throughout the record. “Halfway Home”, lead single and first real song on the record, is a solid reintroduction. The drums are some busy fucking bees and the dissonant strings see-saw violently. All while a heart of golden melody keeps things flowing. The chorus of “Protest Song” ends jaggedly with syllables piling in on themselves as the band rushes to say more before the hook ends.
But on tunes like “Skyline”, the group feels exhausted. Here, they are phoning it in. Right down to the guitar solo that feels jacked from X & Y-era Coldplay of all places. The wonderfully 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque horns on “Stay Happy”, and the jazz flourishes on “Victim Lover” add some immersive variety. But there’s really been no evolution to their sound, besides the gravitas hanging all over the album, emblematic of a band becoming the elder statesmen of a scene.