Cause = Time by Broken Social Scene (Review)

This single divorces the two sides of Broken Social Scene’s music and explores each in greater detail.
Cause=Time - Broken Social Scene

Do we really need to discuss again how Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It in People was one of 2003’s best albums? I’m sure you’ve got that already from reading any number of music rags, webzines, and blogs out there. (And yes, it will be on my “Favorites of 2003” list as soon as I get it posted.) However, let me just say that one reason behind the group’s success, and perhaps the primary reason, was their ability to combine shamelessly accessible pop melodies with an experimental/post-rock approach à la Do Make Say Think, and do it in a way that sounded completely effortless.

This single, however, divorces the two sides of Broken Social Scene’s music and explores each in greater detail. It kicks off with “Cause = Time,” one of the You Forgot It in People’s more straightforward tracks, full of wailing guitars, careening rhythms, yearning vocals, and plenty of swagger in its final moments. However, the remainder of the single moves towards the opposite end of the spectrum, delving into amorphous soundscapes full of textures, loops, and strings that are nonetheless compelling in their beauty.

“Time = Cause” is a wondrous track that somehow reminds one of Gavin Bryars’ Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Björk’s Vespertine, Yann Tiersen, and the sparkling music that played during Punchdrunk Love’s painterly intermissions — all at once. The song creeps along at a snail’s pace while disembodied voices swirl and yearn amidst layers of strings, chimes, harps, accordions, twilit pools of synths, and sparse rhythms. Perhaps the closest equivalent in Broken Social Scene’s repertoire might be “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” crossed with “Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries.” However, “Time = Cause” is far more delicate and further out to left field, and it works wonderfully as a result.

“Weddings” moves a little closer to the pop end of Broken Social Scene’s spectrum, with a more song-like structure. The song also creeps by at a lethargic pace, with sparse guitar treatments and brushed drums filtering through swirling electronics and droning strings. As the song continues, lovely horn-like arrangements can be heard rising up somewhere in the background, along with seemingly a dozen other little elements that begin making their presence known, if only subconsciously. But the song proceeds in such a relaxed manner that it never feels bogged down or top-heavy. Given the two band’s close proximity and shared rosters, comparisons to Do Make Say Think are almost always inevitable, but they feel quite appropriate here.

When I bought Cause = Time, I wasn’t really sure it would be a good buy. I hadn’t gone into the store with any thought of buying it. In fact, I didn’t even know it had been released. I’ll admit that when I picked it up, it was due partly to the fact that it was the Broken Social Scene, and I felt somewhat obliged to keep abreast of what was going on with this most celebrated of groups. However, this turned out to be an incredibly solid purchase. Even with only 3 songs, the single reiterates of the beauty and appeal of Broken Social Scene’s music, and in the case of “Time = Cause” (and, to a slightly lesser degree, “Weddings”) reveals even more potential in the group’s faceted sound, potential that I hope continues to manifest itself in future recordings.

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