Broken Records – Until The Earth Begins To Part (4AD)
I’ll bet there were hundreds of bands across the pond that began kicking themselves the first time they heard Arcade Fire thinking, “We should have done that first! After all, if it weren’t for us Europeans, those uncultured fucks in North America would still think a glockenspiel is a fancy word for cock ring.”
Formed in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2006, the septet known as Broken Records has quite obviously been taking very detailed notes on bands with epic mindsets and incorporated it all into their debut, Until The Earth Begins To Part. It’s clear that all seven members are quite good musicians with one in particular, Jamie Sutherland, positioned well out in front as the member that corrals the entire thing into manageable chunks of pretentious emotional declaration.
His voice trembles, breaks, and alternates between a one-dimensional delivery and an overused falsetto used to convey moments of honesty. I’m confident that live, all of this posturing appears downright sincere and revelatory; hell, I’d check this band out if they ever came to my town. But on tape, all of this just sounds downright calculated.
In addition to the obvious nod to Arcade Fire, there are moments when Broken Records comes close to channeling bits of The Waterboys‘ Fisherman’s Blues and it’s pretty clear that Sutherland has a Levellers record or two back home.
I not only question what’s fueling all of this heavy-handed arrangement, I wonder what themes are stirring Sutherland’s lyrical passions. On “Good Reason,” he barks all the right political posturing (“And if you give us just one good reason / Tell us where to march / We’ll fight! We’ll die!”) but fails to…ahem…actually give us one good reason.
He pulls characters from Henrik Ibsen plays into songs (“If Eilert Loevborg Wrote A Song, It Would Sound Like This”), waxes on life’s meaning (“Nearly Home”) and reminds us of those important dates when inspiration struck him (‘Thoughts On A Picture [In A Paper, January 2009]”).
By the end of Until The Earth Begins To Part, I learned that Broken Records were decent enough musicians, that their main creative force was a well-read young man with an okay record collection, and that they had spent the last three years together, working hard at becoming a cohesive group utilizing a wide gamut of instruments. But I learned jack shit about why their perspective was deserving of all the grandeur, why their main creative force felt that his prose was worthy of such bombastic delivery, and how all of this unfocused drama doesn’t do nearly enough to touch a chord with my own emotions.
To put it in perspective, Until The Earth Begins To Part is just the sound of a few young musicians kicking around some dirt instead of really breaking any new ground.
MP3: Broken Records – “If The News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It”
Video: Broken Records – “Until The Earth Begins To Part”