Tuesday night marked a sad moment for many Canadians, including myself, and people from around the world as one of Canada’s largest musical exports and arguably one of the most important Canadian bands of the last decade called it quits. Broken Social Scene’s concert in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on November 8th turned out to be their very last as they announced it both at the show and via twitter. Broken Social Scene’s impact has been monumental musically, but they will be forever remembered for the work they put in to fostering an amazing community of Canadian artists including the likes of Feist and Metric. But is it really goodbye forever? Perhaps, but the spirit of Broken Social Scene may be harder to kill than that.
When Broken Social Scene, founded by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, emerged with their largely instrumental 2001 debut, Feel Good Lost, they did so with a distinctly Canadian flavour that in many ways defined them as a band. In fact, the first track on the album was named, in a characteristically tongue in cheek manner, “I Slept With Bonhomme at the CBC.” The live shows they played in support of this album also marked the beginning of their history of collaborations. This tendency toward collaboration and community led to them becoming affiliated with bands and artists such as: Leslie Feist (Feist), Jason Collett, Elizabeth Palmer (Land of Talk), Emily Haines and James Shaw (Metric), Stars, Do Make Say Think, Jason Tait (The Weakerthans) and many, many more. Collaboration and community became such an integral part of the band’s identity that they were often fond of calling themselves a “collective” of musicians. Their laundry list of musical involvement with other Canadian artists often reads like a who’s-who of Canadian indie rock. This is part of the reason why they are different than any other Canadian band for me. Take Arcade Fire, for example. When somebody says to me, “I love Arcade Fire,” my gut reaction is often, “so what?” Saying you love Arcade Fire is like saying you love the Smiths. Everybody loves the Smiths. But when I hear somebody say, “I love Broken Social Scene,” that is a completely different matter. There is a connection there that speaks to the very heart of what it means to be a Canadian artist. Broken Social Scene constitutes a kind of glue that binds Canada’s diverse music scene together. Their existence was and is a testament to the independent spirit that says truly independent artists can make it by sticking together and cooperating. There’s something essentially Canadian in the idea that diverse people can come together to create something new. It is also the reason why their spirit, musically and perhaps physically, will carry on.
Broken Social Scene performs “World Sick,” “7/4 Shoreline,” and “Fire Eye’d Boy” live at SXSW with a 13-person lineup.
Part hippy collective and part jam band with a line-up that has expanded to as many as 17 musicians, Broken Social Scene has been defined by their fluctuating nature as a band. As long-time “member” (that word is in quotations because it doesn’t have much meaning when applied to Broken Social Scene) Leslie Feist put it, “Broken Social Scene will be a band when we’re old and grey, even if it’s just at pot luck, because it was never something that needed to be defined.” People like Canning and Drew don’t just stop making music. It’s quite possible, and even likely, that they will be back in one form or another, and it will still be Broken Social Scene.
Whether the start of a hiatus or really the end, Broken Social Scene’s influence will carry on far beyond their physical presence as a band.
Here are some BSS classics for your listening pleasure:
Broken Social Scene – Fire Eye’d Boy
Broken Social Scene – Meet Me in the Basement
Broken Social Scene – Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl