Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It in People was justifiably hailed as a major indie-rock record (before “indie” became a brand unto itself), but that album’s immense success has clearly hampered BSS’s willingness to experiment with their sound. While the band’s self-titled third album played out like a big-budget remake of their second, lead singer Kevin Drew’s Spirit If… sounds like a typical spin-off piece—with a thin premise, loads of guest appearances, and a general undercurrent of redundancy. The BSS trademarks are all here—most obviously their ramshackle, throw-everything-at-the-wall instrumental attack. The drums are still at the forefront, the acoustic guitars still sound homemade, and Drew still comes off as a sweaty, strung-out guy who likes singing about fucking almost as much as he actually likes doing it. His lyrics take center stage more than in the band’s past efforts, and the results are surprisingly clichéd: songs like “Tbtf” (“You are too beautiful to fuck”) reveal a sophomoric, Dave Matthews-level sentiment and make the album feel vain and indulgent.
“Epic” is still the band’s preferred watchword (album opener “Farewell to the Pressure Kids” and “Back Out The…” both employ a large array of sounds and singers) but the insistent grandiosity of their approach has become exhaustive and irritating; too many of these tracks sound like leftovers from You Forgot It in People. And yet when Drew tones down his approach on tracks like “Safety Bricks” and “Gang Bang Suicide,” the result is underwhelming and seems to want for additional input. Even worse is that the few moments that really work (check out the lazy slide guitar on “Broke Me Up”) are smothered in the album’s 14 songs and hour-plus running time; there is not enough decent material here to warrant anything more than a brief EP. As this album is supposed to be the first in a series of solo efforts from different members of BSS, one hopes they will throw out their tired template and take advantage of the creative freedom that such a project offers.