I could open this post with a waxing recap of Broken Social Scene’s illustrious career and the defining moments of their musical heritage or a roll call of the band’s rotating roster and their various offshoot musical projects. But if I did all that, this post would read like every other blog post/review about Broken Social Scene since they rolled out Hug of Thunder in 2017 and we already know how I felt about that album. I don’t want to write about Broken Social Scene the collective band, I just want to write about their music. In particular, two EPs released two months apart, that make a sort-of composite whole: Let’s Try the After Volumes 1 and 2. Two EPs of five songs each that build textures, set moods, and immerse listeners in a 360° virtual music reality divorced from the Broken Social Scene dogma that dogged their last record.
Let’s Try the After Vol. 1 opens with “The Sweet Sea”, a slight instrumental that’s less concerned with making a statement and more about getting your attention. It’s over in less than a minute, but there’s something incredibly compelling in its forty-eight seconds — an intangible quality that suggests a whole other life on the other side of the fade out. It cascades into the rolling thunder of “Remember Me Young”, a mostly instrumental throwback that touches upon the tone and power of 2002’s You Forgot It In People with a 2019 sensibility. Ariel Engle’s wordless cooing counterbalances the mechanic beat, blanketing the track with feminine softness. Engle’s touch continues to spoil us on “1972”, a blissed-out, mid-tempo joint built from sun-bleached melodies and musical style right out of its namesake decade.
“Memory Lover” kicks off On Vol. 2, painting by the same numbers as “The Sweet Sea” but with bolder colours and broader brush strokes. “Big Couches” isn’t as throwaway at it sounds, but it loses steam as an AutoTuned Kevin Drew begins to repeat himself one time too many. It’s a forgivable transgression, as both the more fully realized “Let’s Try the After” and “Wrong Line” round out and redeem EP 2 from being perceived as a Vol. 1’s disposable sibling.
I could close this post with a few lines that reiterate how much I’m enjoying the EPs and that blow smoke up the band’s collective asses, but that would be disingenuous. As much as I’m impressed, I do have a bone to pick. Though I understand the thought behind releasing a pair of EPs versus a single record, Broken Social Scene has done the tracks on Let’s Try the AfterVol. 1 and Vol. 2 a disservice; the songs serve each other better together than divided. I wouldn’t suggest sequencing them in the same running order as playing Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 front-to-back, either, as that would still smack of an A-side / B-side divide. The Andrew Whiteman-led “All I Want” would make for a compelling and unexpected opening number and would be far less predictable than Broken Social Scene kicking off with either of the EPs two instrumental first tracks.
The relative brevity of these ten songs allows for any number of intriguing permutations to the track listing. In the absence of a single collection, I suggest putting the two EPs together as one playlist and listening back on shuffle; you’ll find there’s a dishevelled, unfinished quality to Let’s Try the After that makes Broken Social Scene’s music sound intimate — and interesting — once again.