BOOK REVIEW – “This Book Is Broken” by Stuart Burman (2009)

January 29, 2010

Rating: 4/5

This Book Is Broken, written by Toronto-based music journalist Stuart Burman, is a first-person account of the roots, formation, and evolution of the great Broken Social Scene.  Built upon piles of interviews with all the people involved with the band from day one (and if you’re familiar with the band, you know that is a TON of people), the book starts off in mid-90’s Toronto and gradually explains how the many members came together over the next few years, climaxing with their excellent 2002 release You Forgot It In People and the messy-but-good Broken Social Scene in 2005.  The book explores each band member’s recollections and thoughts on the band, along with explanations on how such an ambitious and huge project has remained on its feet while maintaining success for such a long time.  With so many people involved and revolving line-up, one can see how it would be easy to blunder.  Speaking from personal experience, it’s hard to play in a band with more than 4 or 5 people at once.  For about a year I played in a band called Our Nation, which was somewhat similar to Broken Social Scene in that in our relatively short one-year span, 15 people were involved.  Whoever could make it out to play the show could play the show.  However, as the songs took on a life of their own, it was kind of hard to keep it together with so many people involved, and for that reason, Our Nation imploded into itself.  This Book Is Broken shows how you can make it work.  The book also goes into great detail on how the band and its label, Arts & Crafts, revolutionized the Toronto music scene, transforming it into a thriving musical community recognized globally.  When you think about it, before 2003, not a lot of Canadian indie rock bands had achieved much success out of Canada.  Obviously, Broken Social Scene did not make this happen singlehandedly, with the Internet making it easier for these bands to be known outside of their own radius.  However, because BSS is a band that incorporates so many people who have bands or solo careers of their own, it’s that element of cross promotion that has made it work on such a large scale.  This Book Is Broken ends on an uncertain note.  Stuart Berman admits he has no idea where the band will go from here and if it will ever be the same as it once was, as BBS was becoming more of a vehicle for founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning’s solo material.  Well, he wrote those words in 2008.  2009 saw Broken Social Scene-proper come out of its shell once again.  It was announced they were recording a new album.  In July, I saw them play in Ottawa as part of Bluesfest, where they performed several new tunes.  The night before, they performed a show in Toronto at the Harbourfront Centre in which almost everyone who has ever been involved with the band showed up.  So the future looks bright for Broken Social Scene, and in another 10 years, Burman might have to write a book entitled This Book Is Still Broken.

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