Sunday, 8 June 2008

Off on a Tangent. Part 15 – Broken Social Scene, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 23rd May 2008.

Some cracked genius has decreed that Shepherd’s Bush tube station is closed for renovation, so getting off at White City, my brother and I had to figure out which way the Empire was (they used to film Crackerjack there, don’cha know). Just then, a bloke in a sari walked past – hmmm: I bet he’s going to the Empire – assumption correct!

The last time I was at Shepherd’s Bush Empire was for Helmet (featuring a stage diving Paul King – how bizarre was that?), and one of the last times my brother was there was to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, during whose set he dried his socks on a handy light in the balcony (as well as marvelling at the walking distillery that is Shane MacGowan, who was busy providing back up drunken roars, or ‘vocals’ as he probably calls them).

So, Broken Social Scene: I’m happy to report that BSS have regained a great deal of their ramshackle charm. Last time out, the touring band had been whittled down to an essential core, which meant that they came across more like a seasoned session band rather than a loose multi-headed pop thing, which is what they’re good at. This time round with Amy Millan and various members of the support band The Brunettes in attendance, BSS were back to their shuffling, tumbledown best.

At a guess, I’d say this tour was ostensibly to promote Brendan Canning’s album, Something for All of Us – not that you’d know it, as Kevin Drew leads from the front as he tends to. As Canning’s record isn’t out until July, you can only assume that these guys like touring to the detriment of everything else in their lives, the crazy eejits. That said, the couple of songs they play from Canning’s new record sound fantastic: instead of the usual BSS wall of bleeding sound, we get bass driven melodies with some much needed fuzzy space round the edges.

And then we get Charles Spearin’s Jazz Odyssey: the Do Make Say Think helmer unveiled a mini-collection of instrumentals that attempted to replicate speech patterns using just a gently strummed guitar and a wildly honking saxophone playing every conceivable scale known to man. I guess it gave the other members of the band some time off for a well deserved cup of tea.

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