From the Shelf: Broken Social Scene – Feel Good Lost

Broken Social Scene – Feel Good Lost (2001, Noise Factory / Arts & Crafts)

Back in the day, before there was an indie rock boom in Toronto – indeed, before there even was a thing called indie rock, really – there was Broken Social Scene. They’ve taken some flak over the years for everything they’ve become, spawned and influenced, but you gotta give it to Kevin Drew and Brandon Canning: the guys have stuck around and chased the muse for the better part of two decades now.


Anyway, back in the early part of the 2000s, there wasn’t really a Toronto scene for indie rock. I think. I was a lot younger then and truthfully didn’t start paying attention until a couple years later. But when Broken Social Scene released their first record, now-iconic Canadian acts like Stars, Fiest and Metric were still playing clubs and had yet to release full-length records.


It’s a world that, to be candid, I don’t remember this record coming out into or changing. At this point, Broken Social Scene was still a little ways away from becoming a generation-defining band, still kind of coming together and figuring out their approach. There wasn’t an Indie 88 or CBC Radio 3 back then to play this kind of music and I don’t remember any blogs or magazines championing this record; I didn’t hear of them until a couple of years later, when Much’s alt-rock show The Wedge started playing “Cause = Time” late at night.

At the same time, it makes this record interesting and compelling in ways later Broken Social Scene records aren’t. Here, mostly everything is instrumental. The music’s generally kind of slow-moving, meandering and exploratory. The duo of Drew and Canning occasionally work up some interesting riffs and passages, but it never sticks around long: the music is shifting, constantly moving around. This isn’t as formal as their next record – or any of their other records, really – would ever sound. Which is actually really cool, in retrospect: you can almost hear the band coming into it’s own, figuring out grooves and passages they’d build a reputation and scene on. But it isn’t quite there yet.


My favourite track here is “Love and Mathematics,” where the two play around a circular groove, anchored by some primo live drums. Guitars weave in and out, a bass guitar pushes the music forward and things swirl into a kaleidoscope of colour and sound, fuzz and distortion. I remember listening to this on repeat one time, using it to calm down from a panic attack.

There are other moments that have stuck with me since I first got this record well over a decade ago: the breathy vocal and slow drones of “Passport Radio”, the tricky guitar lines of “Alive in 85”, and the creaky, ancient-sounding guitar wobble of “Feel Good Lost,” which comes in sounding like an old 78 RPM record from another lifetime.


From here, it was a hop, skip and a jump to the explosive and still-exciting You Forgot It In People, a record that still gives me feelings and one I’ve made sure is always close at hand. There, the experimenting and jamming of Feel Good Lost has paid off: the songs are built around solid frames, additional players add tonal colours to the music and the lyrics added a sense of purpose to the band’s music. But you can still hear echoes of Feel Good Lost be it on instrumentals like “Pacific Theme” or “Shampoo Suicide,” the fractured alt-rock of “Cause = Time” or the hazy rock of ‘Stars and Sons.”


In one sense, Broken Social Scene never made another record quite Feel Good Lost, but in another, everything else can be traced back to it’s mix of fuzzy guitars, hazy post-rock and genuine sense of experimention. It’s not my favourite of theirs, but it’s one I pull out every now and then and I’m always glad I do.


Rating: 4/5






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