Something is happening, for sure, but Broken Social Scene give the lie to the notion that it is a wholly new development. Hailing from Toronto and based around Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, the sometimes 18-strong band caused an indie-scene splash back in 2002 with their sophomore effort,You Forgot it In People. As for the music, it reflects their large and amorphous line-up vividly. Their third, eponymously titled album, due for release in January, is that rare thing: a record that sounds like the time and guest appearances it took to make were well used. No one song follows any one direction, instead wrapping up a seemingly freeform fog of classical, garage-rock, post-punk, new-wave, indie-pop, country-soul and jazz influences.
It takes leaps of faith for a band to pull that off, but the Scene nail it. As for their live show, they somehow manage to reinvent the wheel again. The first five or six songs are played as one, unfurling with symphonic scope but never becoming self-indulgent. Aided by the joyous sight of four or five shy-looking guitarists lifting their instruments in unison, and heady parps of fittingly festive brass, they draw out the momentum from what could have been a neo-prog mush.
The scruffy, jovial Drew is determined to make the evening go with a bang. As he implores the audience to forget it's Monday and pretend it's the weekend, the music picks up magnificently. Like The Polyphonic Spree with better sound and less cheesy lyrics, songs such as "Major Label Debut" and the mischievously titled "Handjobs for the Holidays" blossom into sunshine melodies when least expected.
The Scenesters rock a little more directly live than on album, with the voices of Drew (faintly falsetto-ish and wispy) and two female vocalists lifted high in the mix. The effect is a fine balancing act, maintaining the Scene's enthralling willingness to embrace difficulty while never becoming obtuse. The flurry of sound teeters on the brink of over-ambition, but only two thirds of the band's name are right: there aren't any cracks in this Scene.