Euphoria. That’s the word that keeps coming to mind with each new song released in advance of Broken Social Scene’s comeback record Hug of Thunder, set to drop on July 7th. We heard it on “Halfway Home”, which sounded like a “we are back” statement with layered vocals in the chorus and its twin guitar assault. Despite being somewhat generic in overall structure, it was simply a rush to hear these guys back in their element making music together. The title track, in case you missed it, slowed things down a bit and showed a more vulnerable side to the album – but with “Skyline”, they’re back to the aforementioned wave of euphoria that is now appearing to be the unifying aura behind Hug of Thunder.
Broken Social Scene have worked with more complex and creative concepts before, but that’s not a totally scathing indictment. Yes, all three of the tracks revealed so far tone down their experimental reputation in favor of more commonplace indie-rock aesthetics, but the results have never been so listenable or utterly pleasant. The acoustic guitars wash over your ears, like you’re standing a few hundred feet away from a massive waterfall and just letting the mist hit you in the face. Like with “Halfway Home”, the vocals are very much a gang effort, but the contrasting styles blend together so smoothly that you’ll wonder why all indie bands can’t achieve such a satisfying level of melodic harmony. The drumming, while basic, keeps a pace that’s chasing upbeat but never quite explodes – like they are trying to keep a secret.
While all of this sounds great, it’s still sort of a pale melody when placed back-to-back against lead single “Halfway Home” – a song born of the same ideas that simply executes them better. “Skyline” is pleasant, but not memorable. It’s inviting, but not interesting. It’s the sort of track that helps define an album’s overarching mood without holding any real sway as a standalone effort. It certainly has its place and purpose, and will ultimately prove to be well worth including on Hug of Thunder, but until it is heard in the context of the complete experience, it’s difficult to anoint “Skyline” as anything other than a watermark of preceding singles – retaining the overall premise that Broken Social Scene set out to accomplish only with faded results. As long as the band injects more of their unique personality and experimental knack into the other 9 tracks that we’ve yet to hear, then Hug of Thunder will be a feel-good force to be reckoned with. If it’s merely a consistent retread of what we’ve heard thus far, though, then it would seem Broken Social Scene is content to rest in the laurels of their name while pushing generic “indie-rock” formulas that – while admittedly good and coming through a more talented filter – won’t bring people together the way this band is so clearly capable of doing.
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