Ever since Brexit passed, Donald Trump took office, and an accompanying wave of white nationalism swept Europe and North America, the music world has been awash with descriptions of new music that we supposedly “need now more than ever.” Maybe it’s the anti-facist sentiment of At the Drive In, maybe it’s the Gorillaz’s “party for the end of the world” soundtrack, maybe it’s Run The Jewels asking, “How long before the hate that we hold leads us to another Holocaust?” Sometimes, though, the most defining, poignant music of a tumultuous era has little to do with the actual events unfolding before our eyes. After all, how does Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” actually relate to the Vietnam War?
Canadian collective Broken Social Scene recently made a new album-- their first in seven years-- and based on what we’ve heard from it so far, it doesn’t explicitly reference any current events. The pre-release tracks “Halfway Home,” “Hug Of Thunder,” and now “Skyline” do, however, pack a wallop stronger than that of 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record. That might just be because they’re better and more heartfelt songs than, say, “Texico Bitches,” but it also seems to have something to do with the implications of the band’s collective spirit and uplifting qualities.
“We wanted this to be unity, and we wanted this record to be all of us,” said de facto BSS leader Kevin Drew during a recent interview on Sirius XMU. “At this time and in the state of the world as it is, the one thing we knew we could do is come back as friends. […] It was important for all of us to come together because it’s the only thing we can politically do at this moment in time.”
Is friendship really a powerful political act? What about marching, writing critiques, or phoning your congressmen? At least in music, we’re long past the era when a single song can shift the world’s political tides (if that era ever existed in the first place). In other words, it’s unlikely that any MAGA hat owners heard RTJ3 and subsequently changed their ways. Music is so segmented and niche nowadays that “preaching to the choir” is the operative norm-- people listen to have their tastes, and even values, reinforced.
On their new songs, Broken Social Scene aren’t skewering the system or referencing the resistance, they’re simply saying, “Hey, you remember that music of ours that you fell in love with so long ago? Well we’re still here making it and we still love each other.” BSS has been a democratic, equality-repping enterprise since its onset, and despite the fact that most of its members have a million other musical projects, they thought that it was important to unite again in the service of strengthening their bond and inspiring their fans. That’s the power that you can feel in their new music, even if you live under a rock or don’t speak a word of English.