Jukebox Breakdown: Broken Social Scene – “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”

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Welcome to Jukebox Breakdown, a column where we write about songs we love. Less about overarching themes or through-lines, Jukebox Breakdown is simply a space for our thoughts on perfect tracks.

Jukebox Breakdown: Broken Social Scene – “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”

by Chad Jewett

On You Forgot It In People, Canadian indie greats Broken Social Scene mostly used their ever-expandable line-up as a means to flexibility. A few songs, like the triumphant “KC Accidental” might have plied the band’s sheer size for critical mass, but the album more often found the band selecting smaller troupes within its roster to tackle the cool samba grooves of “Pacific Theme” or the hushed, string-laden banjo-and-electronica bedroom pop of “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl.” But on Broken Social Scene, the band’s third album (which turns ten this month) and certainly their most underrated, the Toronto collective finally embraced a maximalism more thunderously impactful than minutely detailed. And “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”, the opening salvo of Broken Social Scene — and one of the group’s two or three best songs — is the album’s definitive, bombastic statement of purpose.

Beginning with a couple seconds of the same carefully placed ambiance that figured so importantly on You Forgot It In People, the calm is quickly interrupted by a lancing bit of feedback that soon swells into a thudding, earnest march from drummer Justin Peroff and a snarled, bending lead guitar doubled, tripled, maybe quadrupled by Broken Social Scene’s many guitarists (at the very least Kevin Drew and Andrew Whiteman). It’s the kind of oddly beautiful, ultra-simple riff (really just one note being dragged in and out of focus) that still makes Dinosaur Jr’s Bug or Nirvana’s In Utero — not to mention the name-checked Pavement — essential, and Kevin Drew (who leads “Ibi”) and company are wise to make it the defining melody. But Drew also seems to relish the sudden, walloping burst of the song’s intro, and sings to match, shouting his first bars (“Well, I got shot right in the back / And you were there, you were there / I said I was never coming back / And you were there, you were there”), digging mightily into “I got SHOT”. If You Forgot It In People consisted mainly of star-making turns for Emily Haines and Leslie Feist, then surely “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement” is Drew’s grand breakthrough, abandoning the hushed intimacy of the previous album for something more wooly and energized.

The song builds and builds, essentially serving as a metaphor for the band’s own swiftly-accruing lineup and as synecdoche for Broken Social Scene, which again and again draws on its long bench for indie-rock symphonies of epic proportions. Guitars pile up, horns swell, a second drum kit seems to appear on the margins, Drew is backed up by both echoed-out versions himself and others, until a final last crescendo – wherein that addictive riff begins to claw its way to the front again – where the whole thing clatters to a sudden halt. Broken Social Scene is likely the band’s angriest, most unsettled record, even as its also the album most packed with would-be hits and obvious singles. “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (“A Better Day”) combines all of that, the work of a righteously ferocious punk-rock orchestra that also happens to be transcendently gorgeous.

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