Best tunes of 2002: #8 Broken Social Scene “Cause = time”

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My good friend and infrequent contributor to this blog, Andrew Rodriguez, once quipped that I wasn’t able to be a fan of a band unless they had at least six members. And while he exaggerated some, it’s true that a lot of the new bands that I discovered and fell for in the 2000s had a lot of personnel. This singular characteristic, however, wasn’t one that automatically made me a fan of the act in question. As a case in point, Broken Social Scene is a band who is quite famous for having a large contingent, filling stages both large and small, whenever and wherever they played live, and try as I might, I was never able to get into them in their early days.

The Toronto-based indie collective actually started out as duo back in 1999. Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning recorded their mostly instrumental, ambient debut album, 2001’s “Feel good lost”, by themselves, for the most part. When it came to performing it live, however, Drew and Canning would enlist the help of their friends, many of them fixtures of the Toronto indie rock scene, members of bands already established or soon to be established, like Metric, Stars, Apostles of Hustle, and Feist. The duo then brought a lot of these same friends into the studio with them when they recorded their sophomore album, the now iconic “You forgot it in people”, and the rest, as they are wont to say, is history. The album was critically acclaimed, did quite well commercially for a Canadian indie band, and was cited in many conversations as one of the centrepieces around which the Canadian indie explosion of the 2000s revolved. And I remember telling people in similar conversations that I appreciated all that, but for me, they were a band of whose parts I enjoyed more than their sum.

Of course, that was back then. These days, I love Broken Social Scene. Somewhere along the line, I came to my senses and became a fan, allowing me to reclaim my Canadian citizenship. I’ve seen them live twice, experiencing the magic that made me question whether or not I was on bad drugs when I listened to them early on. Their show is so much fun, seeing so many talented musicians playing together on the same stage, all contributing to creating that perfect sound and obviously, having fun doing it. Yeah and each time I saw them, the show was completely different because it was a different combination of musicians on stage. It seems that it’s like – whoever’s available, come on out and play. And play and rock, they do.

“Cause = time” is the perfect way to illustrate how they bring the rock. It was an exceptional tune for me because it was one of the few that I liked even before I became a full-fledged fan. The atmospherics of their early work still laid the groundwork but the driving drum beat, rumbling bass line, and screeching, screaming, and scratching guitars all get the heart racing. Indeed, it is a noisy cacophony and could’ve been in danger of becoming unlistenable if it weren’t for the counterpoint put forward by Kevin Drew. He settles things down to a mellow and cool vibe with his vocals and it’s like losing yourself in the beauty of the moment while the chaos of the world flashes violently around you.

Chaos and calm. That says it right there.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #9 Oasis “Stop crying your heart out”

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Oasis. Yeah, I loved them. But there was also a period where we grew apart, me and Oasis.

As I wrote in my post detailing their appearance on my Best tunes of 2000 list with “Go let it out”, I found their third record, 1997’s “Be here now”, just a tad over the top, even for them. I didn’t even bother with the next one, “Standing on the shoulders of giants”, at the time, and took me many years before I gave that full album a chance.

My return to the Oasis fold started with their 2002 album, “Heathen chemistry”, their first album with new band members Gem Archer and Andy Bell (of Ride) and their last with longtime drummer, Alan White. It was marked attempt by Noel Gallagher to rein things back in a bit, and to try to recapture some of that magic that made the Manchester, England rock band so big in the first place. I’m talking here of the magnificence and exuberance that was their first two records. And I swore I heard a bit of that the first time I heard the lead off single from “Heathen chemistry”. I remember that I was back in Toronto for the weekend and driving around with my brother-in-law Nick and “The Hindu times” came on the radio. I also remember exclaiming aloud that it sounded like Oasis. To which Nick, thinking I was just stating the obvious, replied, “That’s because it is”.

As piqued as my curiousity was with this first single, it wasn’t until a few months later that I was really pushed to give Oasis another chance. My younger brother, Mike, came up to Ottawa to visit that summer and with him brought a bunch of CDs to keep him company on the long Greyhound trip from Bowmanville. One of the evenings that weekend was spent spinning CDs and sharing tunes and the two new ones that really stuck out for me was Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s self-titled debut and the CD single of “Stop crying your heart out” by the Gallagher brothers and their friends.

“We’re all of us stars
We’re fading away
Just try not to worry
You’ll see us some day“

Noel’s lyrics aren’t always clear and aren’t always deep but they’re well put together for the melody and still manage to evoke moods and feelings. “Stop crying” is a motivating and uplifting number. Yeah, it’s a piano ballad with Gem Archer earning his keep. But it soon gets anthemic because… of course, it does. Big guitars, shimmering and crashing cymbals, towering strings, and over top it all, it’s Liam, sneering and crooning and jerking our tears and pulling our heartstrings.

Sing it with me: “Hold onnnnnn!”

Man, that Noel knows how to conjure rock and roll, doesn’t he?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #10 David Bowie “Everyone says ‘hi'”

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Wow. It took almost three and half years for this blog to see its first proper post to feature David Bowie. Fittingly, it was his 2002 album, “Heathen”, that really set me on the course to fandom. Of course, I’d heard him before, knew many of the hits, heard a few of his compilations, but I feel sure that this was the first of his albums to which I listened in full and took an immediate liking.

Seen by many at the time as a comeback of sorts, David Bowie’s 22nd album was his highest charting album since the early 80s and was generally as well-received by the critics as it was the buying public. It saw him easing back from the electronic sound he focused on in the 90s, consecutively dabbling in soul/jazz, industrial, and electronica/rave sounds, and instead, playing with a more fulsome and organic palette. The cover art of “Heathen” felt like a play or self-parody, an older Bowie looking clean cut and almost too normal, except for those eyes, those eyes felt alien. Yeah, alien.

Right neat the end of album, at track ten, sits this tune, “Everyone says ‘hi’”, the album’s second single. You might think by its title that it’s a happy and light number and listening to it superficially might find you in the same place. But this big sounding tune that mixes solid acoustic strumming and plenty of chameleonic synths, is really a song about loss and missing someone so terribly that you can’t accept it and instead, choose to imagine them having gone temporarily, vacation-like.

“Said you took a big trip
They said you moved away
Happened oh, so quietly
They say”

This song is magic and the more you listen to the words, the deeper they cut. And suddenly, the cheerful tune becomes haunting, the saxophone rings in nostalgia, recalling his youth, the strings gather you all in. “Everyone says ‘hi’.” Everyone misses you, Bowie is saying, the pain is so great that everyone feels it, like pathetic fallacy. Just amazing.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.