In the three years since the release of Broken Social Scene's second album, You Forgot It In People, the ramshackle post-rock collection has become a much-beloved generational touchstonecomparable to Slint's Spiderland and My Bloody Valentine's Lovelessand the Canadian punk scene that spawned the band has produced cult hit after cult hit, including BSS-associated acts like Feist, Stars, and Metric. With all that on their minds, it's no wonder bandleaders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning sound a little tight and derivative on the long-awaited follow-up Broken Social Scene. The raging cacophony of You Forgot It In People has all but faded away, leaving behind a foundation of dreamy melodies and odd time signatures that soundswithout the punk thrusta little Sea And Cake-y.
But The Sea And Cake is a good band too, and even a mellowed Broken Social Scene sports more energy and ideas than a dozen mainstream rock acts. The new album's best moments embrace the band's incarnation as the indie-rock Steely Danacidic cynicism included. The song "7/4 (Shoreline)" initially sounds like an exercise in off-kilter tempos, but the "Shoreline" aspect gradually overcomes the "7/4," and as the song gets louder and crazier, it becomes like a beach party spinning out of control. "Fire Eye'd Boy" has the propulsive opening of a prototypical BSS track, but evolves into a jammy tale of restless teens, while the swift "Swimmers" turns an innocent love song into something more tribal, and the concluding "It's All Gonna Break" turns free-floating anxiety into a multi-part rock epic. Broken Social Scene is too long and too stylistically unvarying, but it offers an often-stunning vision of the accidental beauty of venal youth.
Metric's second album, Live It Out, is much punchier than Broken Social Scene, even though it represents a partial break from the abrasive synth-pop of its 2003 debut Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? The new, aggressively rock 'n' roll version of Metric announces itself on Live It Out's first song, "Empty," which starts out soft and insinuating and then transforms into a snarling beast, spiked with power chords. Bandleaders Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw lived in New York's fashionable Williamsburg neighborhood before moving back to Toronto, and a lot of Live It Out bears the mark of NY fellow travelers like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio. The problem, as with Old World Underground, is that Metric has a hard time balancing its pop side and its experimental side, and not enough of the new record is as memorable as its simmering regret ballad "Too Little Too Late" or the frenzied retro-dance cut "Monster Hospital." Maybe the members of Broken Social Scene should take a lesson from their countrymen in The New Pornographers, pool their best songs, and make the greatest Canadian rock album ever.