1. The drumming is less nuanced (a bad thing) and more active (a good thing) than it was on You Forgot It In People. These things balance out.
2. The lyrics are worse (a bad thing) than they were on You Forgot It In People.
Some random samples: “I know the eyelids were under attack … It’s like the pressure wants to retract” (“Ibi Dreams of Pavement”), “Forced to live like it’s a curfew / Translation means I love you” (“Major Label Debut”), “Until the day I die, Columbia I blame” (“Fire Eye’d Boy”), “You looked like a swimmer” (“Swimmers”), “And they love the doctors / For their shabby knees / I was struck from the outside / Looking for my fleas” (“Superconnected”), the entirety of “Bandwitch,” and the obvious one, “When I was a kid / You fucked me in the ass / But I took my pen to the paper and I passed / You know I love the shit, because the shit it tastes so good” (“It’s All Gonna Break”). (If someone actually relates to any of these, especially the lattermost, please send me a message about how they do.) But they continue in the vein of You Forgot It In People of burying the vocals in sonics, which means that some cases (especially “Ibi”), it’s hard to notice/care (a good thing).
Of course, some do work. The parting sentiment of “Swimmers” is sweet (an almost complete throwaway if you compare it to “Anthems”, but a sweet throwaway nonetheless), “If you always get up late / You’re never gonna be on time / And that’s a shame / Cause I like you / I never see you,” especially with the last two lines being spoken rather than sung. Meanwhile, there are plenty of great lines in “It’s All Gonna Break” that I can ignore the aforementioned profanity-for-profanity’s-sake bullshit: “And I know that you fuck what you love / And you love what you fuck,” “I know the sound of your heart / Is a God I can trust” and “Why are you always fucking ghosts?”
3. Broken Social Scene is the start of the progression of the band towards a hookier existence, which means they’re starting to lose the independence achieved through You Forgot It In People and on their way towards the indistinctness of Forgiveness Rock Record.
That being said, the hooks are mostly good: the 1-2-punch of “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” and “7/4 (Shoreline)” are the most immediate (and unsurprisingly, both were released as singles); like LCD Soundsystem’s “I’m all tapped out” from the same year, there’s just the right amount of (faux-)soul to inscribe meaning (where there was none to begin with) to the repeated “I’m all hooked up” of “Major Label Debut”; “Fire Eye’d Boy” is 49% drumming and 49% chorus; “Windsurfing Nation” eventually smashes its two mantras into a glorious thing. On the other hand, the choruses of “Superconnected” are way too wordy for its own good.
4. If Broken Social Scene – a collective of Canadian musicians and larger now than ever before – wasn’t Canadian enough to begin with, they bring k-os to drop a few bars in “Windsurfing Nation.” This is a bad thing, not because I don’t like k-os (the man’s likeable when he’s trying to get back to being the man he used to be), but because those lines rather suck.
5. You can go ahead and delete “Finish Your Collapse” – a placeholder between the fast-paced preceding two tracks and the slow-tempo-ed “Major Label Debut” – and “Tremoloa Debut” – where one of the members demonstrates that they can play on an instrument called the tremoloa – off Itunes.
6. While you’re at it, you might as well say goodbye to ”Bandwitch.” If the band wrote that song 3 years ago, they would have had the good sense to keep that shit on the b-side collection, because it sounds like any of the nothings off Bee Hives.
7. At their best, the band was always a detail-oriented band. But because their cast is larger than before and because they’re trying to give everyone at least something to do in each song, those details often get buried. There’s still some that I can pick out and I’ll list them here: when the underlying vocals in the opening minute are finally given room to breathe at the 0:57 mark of “Our Faces Split the Coast in Half,” it’s a glorious moment and it might also be the album’s best melody; the band uses what I’ll call “ghost choirs” a lot (“Bandwitch,” “It’s All Gonna Break”), but they’re best utilized in the bridge of “Major Label Debut” (at the 1:35 mark); the soft horn line that comes in at the 1:58 mark of “Swimmers”; the drums that lead you back into the slower, softer bridge of “It’s All Gonna Break” (1:42 – 1:54); the guitar tones of “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” and “Hotel” (the only thing keeping the latter above water, to be honest).
8. Arcade Fire – another Canadian(ish) band who loves grand, sweeping statements a la “It’s All Gonna Break” – would have probably done “It’s All Gonna Break” better. They also would have had the good sense to shorten it. The last 40 seconds are these grand, punctuating horns that you’ve heard enough of after 20 seconds, and fail to deliver the catharsis that the preceding “Why are you always fucking ghosts” bit promised. Compare this to when the horns first come in, at the 4:19 mark. That being said, for a good 6-7 minutes or so, the band impressively manages to hold my attention, despite aforementioned lyricism or Kevin Drew’s unfortunate decision to scream “BREAK” randomly.
9. I’ll also say here that “Major Label Debut” originally – err – debuted in a faster form (which you can get off the bonus disc in some reissues or EP to Be You and Me) that impressively manages to keep the melody but ultimately loses the psychedelic panache.
10. This is one of the perfectly-rated albums of the 00s; a solid follow-up to a great album and nothing more.