BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE with MORE PLASTIC and the LULLABYE ARKESTRA at the Horseshoe, January 12. Tickets: $5. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
sure, they crank out pop songswith disarming ease, and their gigs feature some of the Toronto pop underground's best players working side by side, but the best thing about going to a Broken Social Scene show is that you never really know what kind of set you're going to get.Scenesters Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning -- the only real regulars in a constantly evolving ensemble that's included Leslie Feist, Andrew Whiteman and Charles Spearin -- either have an endless reservoir of songs at their disposal or get off on keeping their audience guessing. Each show differs from the last, members come and go, and the beautiful record of downtempo, vaguely electronic ambient pop that Broken Social Scene released in 2001 is never even considered. Hardly a game plan for success, you'd think.
Saturday's gig, a benefit for local newsprint zine Rosco, found BSS sandwiched between the explosive More Plastic and the apocalyptic love ballads of the Lullabye Arkestra, whose set ended with a full-blown stage invasion and rail-thin drummer Justin Small shirtless and shrieking "I'm a believer." No surprise, then, that beyond a dreamy opener featuring two trumpets blaring away, Drew, Canning and company put the pop aside for some shockingly heavy rock action.
The multi-guitar attack veered between Dinosaur Jr.-style power pop jams and chugging, considerably weightier grunge-friendly anthems. In the middle, the group invited Metric singer Emily Haines up to coo hypnotically over slinky post-punk grooves. Each style oddly complemented the others, and all of them sounded entirely effortless, as though they were being played by a highly polished band rather than a loose collective.
Normally, you'd want a bit of focus from a band. With Broken Social Scene, the wider they get, the better they'll be.