If there’s one thing you might expect from a band with a name like Broken Records, it’s this: Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Fortunately, much as this third album doesn’t do a whole lot to break new ground for the group, any repetition to be found in this album can be favourably looked upon as ‘consistency’, as opposed to the rather less endearing ‘ad nauseam’ variety.
Weights and Pulleys picks up where 2010’s Let Me Come Home left off. Their sophomore release gained more than a smattering of comparisons to Arcade Fire. Given the size of the group, (which includes cello, violin, trumpet and accordion), the fact that Jamie Sutherland’s voice sounds something akin to a Scottish Bruce Springsteen-Win Butler cross breed and their anthemic songwriting, this seems only natural. The group’s latest long-player is chock-full of the same expansive, roaring mix of elation and melancholy. Take “Winterless Son”, for example. It’s a stonker with the raw energy of Springsteen and all the drama of Arcade Fire’s “No Cars Go”.
This leaves Broken Records in an interesting position. Four years down the line from Broken Records last release, Arcade Fire are no longer making music in the same vein as 2007’s Neon Bible. So why, in contrast, have Broken Records chosen to keep their sound so consistent?
Possibility number one: times have changed and Broken Records have failed to move with them. There are certain moments when the soundscape on Weights and Pulleys sounds a little dated - the guitars on “So Long, So Late” could have been plucked straight out of an early noughties Editors single. This in no way detracts from the fact that every track on this album is a carefully crafted piece of songwriting. So, even if there are some throw-back moments, it’s far from a deal-breaker. In fact, for those who are nostalgic for the days when guitar pop ruled the airwaves, this may even be a plus.
Possibility number two: Broken Records are incredibly good at making their own brand of folk-inflected indie-rock. They know this. They’re sticking to it. The proof: “Let’s Call It A Betrayal” is Broken Records at their best. A dramatic drum beat underpins the swells of brass and chorus of raucous shouting. It’s difficult not be carried away by the sheer torrent of musical expression. “All Else Can Just Wait” shows their softer side. It’s reflective, nostalgic and romantic – like watching the sun down go down after a drunken, sunny afternoon. This album is highly recommended if you need to reliably inject some majesty into even the most humdrum of tasks. Running for the bus will never feel as deeply significant as when you’re listening to this.
Surprisingly, Weights and Pulleys doesn’t have that many ups and downs at all. The name is highly misleading. There’s one word to describe this album and that’s ‘solid’: skilfull songwriting, immaculately executed, consistently excellent.