In many ways, Kevin Drew’s solo record is a better Broken Social Scene record than an actual Broken Social Scene record. Whereas BSS is known for its massive instrumental freak-outs and so-many-members-onstage-they-could-start-a-brief-but- successful-revolution live show, the band found on this record is subtler and more cohesive. Drew’s up-close and personal style of songwriting is brought to the fore, and the result is a relaxed, intimate listening experience.
‘Gang Bang Suicide’ has Drew exclaiming, “They say size doesn’t count, but my heart is a house,” over a pseudo-electronic backdrop that recalls Feel Good Lost. “Please don’t scratch me out,” becomes the refrain in ‘Bodhi Sappy Weekend’, before it ends in one of the best string arrangements these musicians have recorded to date. There is an emotional depth in the songs Drew and company have created here that could easily get lost in the density of BSS. But while that band’s records are a celebration of community and spontaneity, Spirit If is full of songs for the outcast, the down-and-out, and the almost forgotten. Never is this more clear than in the acoustic guitar driven, country sing-a-long album closer ‘When it Begins’, in which Drew warns, “It’s gonna be really hard when we get to the end.”
And yet, the whole band still gets a chance to do what it does best on tracks such as ‘Farewell To The Pressure Kids’, which opens the record with bombastic shoegazery before fading into gentler synthesizers and a Kevin Drew-Leslie Feist doubled vocal. ‘Backed Out On The…’ has the band engaging in fuzzed-out guitar jams over what is essentially the album’s most straightforward pop song. But even when it’s bringing the rock, Broken Social Scene is much more focused in its supporting role than as the main attraction. It’s still Drew’s songwriting that pulls everything together.
At 60 minutes, Spirit If feels a little long and has its share of tracks that would’ve been better off on the B-side pile. Still, if you have an hour to kill — this is one of the better ways to do it.