BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Broken Social Scene (Arts & Crafts)

I tried with The Arcade Fire, I really did, but whenever I played their much trumpeted “Funeral” it was thrilling at first – like Godspeed You Black Emperor! playing pop tunes – but flagged long before its end. Happily, this year’s many-headed (17 members are listed on the sleeve) Canadian collective – well, not really this year’s, since “Broken Social Scene” is Broken Social Scene’s third album – come far closer to my idea of greatness. At their best they sound like My Bloody Valentine (the white noise wipe-outs) meeting The Flaming Lips (the delicious tunes) and covering “I Am The Walrus”, except they don’t so much push the sonic envelope as turn it inside out.

Lordy knows what a song such as “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)” is actually about, but it’s a delicious confection of indestructible steam-powered melody and distortion. If you can relate to Mercury Rev in their early, David Baker-led incarnation you’ll enjoy this – when the brass section troops in it’s like “Boces” all over again, in ways that no album I’ve heard in the intervening 13 years has dared to be. And the Scene have the best song titles since Sufjan Stevens last opened an atlas, as “Finish Your Collapse And Stay For Breakfast” and “Handjobs For The Holidays” attest. “7/4 Shoreline” is perfect MBV-style pop chopped up into alien time signatures, and positioning the twinkling, sparkling “Major Label Debut” at the end of side one further cements the “Boces” comparisons, being pleasantly reminiscent of the Rev’s “Downs Are Feminine Balloons”. The delicious “Fire Eye’d Boy” tips its hat more than a little in the direction of New Order’s “Age Of Consent”, all faux-Hooky bassline and Stephen Morris-style human drum machine percussion. The stuttering experimental chaos of “Windsurfing Nation” suddenly, alarmingly perhaps, breaks into rap, “Superconnected” is a thunderous, unstoppable assemblage, “It’s All Gonna Break” a gargantuan thing that throbs and weaves to a bombastic motion picture soundtrack climax.

The vinyl edition of “Broken Social Scene” is blessed with a whole side of extra tracks collectively titled “EP To Be You & Me”. Amidst much scattershot instrumental experimentation can be found the insidiously catchy monstrous pop music of “Canada Vs America”, “All My Friends”’ acoustic introspection on the run from reality and the bouncy fun that is a ‘fast’ version of “Major Label Debut”.

Sometimes “Broken Social Scene” relies more on its raggedy charm than songwriting skill, and perhaps the anti-formula frays in places, but it’s still great fun in an avant garde jumble sale, blurred but beautiful sorta way. And it’s all brought to us with the financial assistance of the Canadian government, something to be gently grateful for and appreciative of.