"You like the new album, right?" Broken Social Scene's producer/part-time player David "Newf" Newfeld asks at the end of our conversation. "We didn't follow up with a shit [record] like some of these people are saying?"
Detractors have been almost as tough on the self-titled, third long-player as New York City cops were on "Newf" last July—who infamously suffered a pair of broken ribs and two black eyes during an arrest for allegedly buying grass off a crack dealer in Washington Square. Among the album's criticisms: the lyrics are incomprehensible, and when deciphered, aren't substantial or profound; excessive mixing-board magic obscures the songs' essence; and, at 21 studio players, there are too many hands on the joystick.
"I read the reviews," Newf says. "And I'm affected by them."
These same critics couldn't stop gushing over Newf's previous—and first—album with BSS, You Forgot It in People. It was an out-of-the-blue success owing to time and place (the absence of hype didn't hurt either), and it elevated Newf from a suit-wearing corporate disc jockey to a Juno-Award–winning musician.
For writers to laud People and lambaste Broken Social Scene is hogwash. The latter is a natural progression of the former, an audacious refusal to piggyback on bygone styles. Guitar rock and pop vignettes are elaborated upon with horns, strings, keys, percussion, samples, hocus-pocus, and the pipes of an all-star cast, including Leslie Feist from Feist, Emily Haines from Metric, Andrew Whiteman from Apostle of Hustle, and members of Stars, among others, and painstakingly coalesced into triumphant, hand-clap, toe-tap, guitar-swelling grooves.
"It's like a paint job on a car," Newf said of his piecemeal approach to composing songs. "You do it in some shitty base color and no one notices it, then you paint it a beautiful shiny black, and the chrome really shows, and everyone is like, that's a fucking cool-looking car."
Broken Social Scene appeals to all types of Sunday drivers. "Windsurfing Nation" has the urgency of redheaded Lola racing through her three cinematic scenarios. Over drummer Justin Peroff's breakneck dance beats, the refrain "All they want is a free ride" anchors Feist's chants of "We won't be what you want to be... Oh, no!" and Tricky knock-off K-OS's roller-coaster rhymes. For "Swimmers," Haines, improvised the sexy throwaway lyric "If you always get up late you'll never be on time" atop Brendan Canning's walk-in-the-park bass line. Meanwhile, Kevin Drew continues the scatological, bi-curious themes of People's "Lover's Spit" and "I'm Still Your Fag" with "It's All Gonna Break," a 10-minute BSS oldie that finally made it onto disc with the intention—according to the liner notes—of sounding like Bob Seger on acid. Drew's opening lines: "When I was a kid you fucked me in the ass... Now I love that shit, that shit tastes so good."
So Newf, no—the follow-up isn't shit. Rather, it's an undeniably exuberant collage of inventive tunes whose rare moments of indulgence and gimmickry are for the most part relegated to the seven-song, limited edition EP included with it. Twenty bucks says you can't make it a hat trick with the next album.