“Everyone can write this song,” Kevin Drew slurs on “Backed Out on the Cops,” one of 14 tracks on Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew, Spirit If., “but they can’t write you and me.” It’s an apt line for more than one reason.
Since Broken Social Scene first shattered the indie-rock charts in 2002 with the now-classic You Forgot It In People, the “little Canadian band that could” has set itself apart from all those other Pro Tools bedroom acts that somehow find time to compose between bong hits. This band of scene-stars is a little more than special.
Spirit If. serves as the first in a series of “Broken Social Scene Presents.” albums featuring people who are already in the band. Make sense? Didn’t think so.
Than again, maybe it’s unfair to compare a “Broken Social Scene” record to a “Broken Social Scene presents” record. But as the title suggests, Spirit If wouldn’t be half of what it is without Drew receiving considerable help from his buddies – members of Do Make Say Think, Stars, Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis and, you guessed it, Leslie Feist. Fortunately, as a result, it’s the record fans have yearned for since You Forgot It – because we haven’t.
While the dense patchwork of white noise on 2005’s self-titled album, commonly referred to as BSS, wasn’t without value, many of those tunes tended to plod along rather than bounce. Basically, unlike You Forgot It, it wasn’t any good to drive to. This time around, however, on tracks like “Safety Bricks,” it’s a relief to hear Drew back in tip-top shape. It’s straight-up songwriting with all the hooks that made those long drives at night not so long. Drew whispers, “So I won’t kiss / The safety bricks / In a car that’s quick / So we can split,” and we’re right with him, passenger side.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a BSS record without the language. Drew likes the F-word, and he likes it a lot. But not in a way one might expect. Those “fucks” are dropped as soft as humanly possible, rather than out of anger or frustration. They’re more like bombs of exasperation, which explains a lot.
As revealed on the ultra-catchy piano and flute lines on “TBTF” – an acronym for “To Beautiful To .” kiss, right? – it’s obvious a lot of sweat and blood went into Spirit If. And for anyone remotely disappointed with 2005’s BSS, this hit’s for you.
While all the old gang is still present and accounted, new friends also enter the fold. The company Drew keeps isn’t the undistinguished kind: legendary guitar slinger and Dinosaur Jr. founder J. Mascis squeals on “Backed Out on the Cops” as the drums steamroll along.
At a husky 14 tracks, it isn’t surprising that a couple of the tunes are relatively expendable, if not outwardly bad. The verse melody on “Lucky Ones” is addictive, but the hook doesn’t deliver like you’d expect a Kevin Drew chorus should. Likewise, “Fucked Up Kid” is endearing enough, but the stripped-down acoustic chugging is a bit redundant considering this occurs in better moments throughout the record.
But these are minor complaints in what is a relatively cohesive and thoroughly satisfying effort. It’s no mistake the wobbly bass line and nifty acoustic arpeggios in “Big Love” pay their dues to You Forgot It’s lovely “Stars and Sons.” Just as it’s no mistake “Gang Bang Suicide” plays as a sequel to 2002’s “Shampoo Suicide.”
Kevin Drew may be giving us what we already know and love, but fuck, that’s why we love it.
Broken Social Scene Presents Spirit Drew
Arts & Crafts