Depending on which version of the story you trust—and part of Broken Social Scene’s charm is that there are so many different versions of the story—the band began as either a deliberate joint venture between Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, or it was something that evolved (and continues to evolve) spontaneously and with little premeditation. Given that the buzz surrounding the group’s two major releases since You Forgot It in People (2002) has had at least as much to do with how many new members have been pulled into the fray of the band’s activity as it has had to do with their music, it’s pretty evident that the consensus leans toward spontaneity—the idea that the group is a democratic collective, one in which new musical directions are always embraced and where the central creative force driving the band is always spreading out and enveloping each member, new or old, equally. Everything’s communal, in short.
This is an appealing narrative, no doubt. And if I’m being honest, I approach it much like the venerable Agent Fox Mulder: I want to believe. The problem is that the very same media outlets that have lent a hand in writing this narrative have simultaneously, and somewhat paradoxically, emphasized the opposite—the notion that BSS is in many ways not the sum of its assorted parts but is rather the creative vision, primarily, of its two founding members. Though this conclusion might not seem particularly profound, it is one worth examining (especially in light of the praise for the band’s latest release, Forgiveness Rock Record) because it is necessary to consider the limitations that the narratives we ascribe to the band poses for it, if not for its fans as well.