With it being seven years since ‘Forgiveness Rock Record’, the longest period Broken Social Scene have endured between releases, there was bound to be an inevitable apprehension behind ‘Hug Of Thunder’. And with all fifteen original members returning and the added pressure that this brings, this record sure has enough artistic pedigree behind it. But was it worth it?
From the expansive intro track ‘Sol Luna’ to the triumphant and jubilant ‘Halfway Home’, which explodes with a rapturous instrumentation, Broken Social Scene return with wonderfully arranged and layered indie rock. This continues with the Emily Haines-led ‘Protest Song’. Resulting in a driving and dense crescendo that features elements of krautrock, ‘Protest Song’ is a rousing listen. The spacious ‘Skyline’ draws obvious but also complimentary comparisons to The War On Drugs, while ‘Vanity Pail Kids’ is reminiscent of their Canadian counterparts, Arcade Fire. As for ‘Please Take Me With You’, its shuffling and almost drum 'n' bass-like beat mixed with C86 guitars is a nice change of momentum for the record.
On the topic of the album’s pace, there are moments where Broken Social Scene take a more focused, downtempo approach. The sweet and subtle title track is one of the LP’s best moments, whereas ‘Victim Lover’s use of horns make this creeping track a rich experience.
However, ‘Hug Of Thunder’ isn’t without its faults. ‘Towers and Masons’ is splashed with dashes of synths and the occasional The Drums-esque “Ooooo”, but overall never really lands. Similarly for ‘Stay Happy’, a track that doesn’t seem to have much direction and ultimately feels like it serves very little purpose.
Ending on ‘Mouth Guards of The Apocalypse’, ‘Hug Of Thunder’ doesn’t cower or bow out pitifully at the last hurdle. With a gorgeous build that erupts with passionate and impressive intensity, ‘Mouth Guards of The Apocalypse’ displays a band at their most regal and grandiose.
‘Hug Of Thunder’ is a welcome return by Broken Social Scene. Dignified, grand and full of life, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another seven years for their next record.
Words: Liam Egan
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