Reflections On A Time, A City and A Broken Social Scene by Cody McGraw

Ten years ago the world began to notice us. We’ve always been a country with some of the world's greatest music, but for some reason this time was different. I was a young writer then. Still in school with my emo hair and a copy if Is This It, and I too, began taking a better look at the country I live in.

In early 2003, at 18 years old, I heard You Forgot it in People by Broken Social Scene for the first time. Now, I’ve had several discussions with friends about their first time listening to this record and we all tend to agree: that was the moment when the game changed. Without knowing it, You Forgot it in People was the record that would bring us together. No disrespect to Joni Mitchell, Stompin’ Tom, Anne Murray or Leonard Cohen (still, fuck you, Celine), but it felt like it was our music and our time now.

There are few words left to be said about this album — and I won’t repeat them here since this isn't a review. You Forgot it in People isn’t considered good just because it's an amazing album, but for what it has done for us, too. Turning on a radio in the early 2000's all we'd hear were songs about cars we'd never afford, or "bitches in tow", and why would we want to listen to that? We wanted change and we got it.

After that, the door was ajar for other acts such as Stars, Metric, The Acorn, Arcade Fire and countless other Broken Social Scene off-shoots. Stars would drop Set Yourself on Fire and make Canadian music history in their own right. Metric would bring rock back into our lives with Old World Underground, Where Are You Now and it's hard to imagine our lives without those seminal albums.

Those records awoke something in me — something difficult to explain, but it’s best thought of as a call of duty. I wanted the world to hear this music and make them feel the joy I felt, have it touch their lives like it touched mine. So I began writing about Canadian music.

Moving to Toronto after graduating, I'd meet people with a similar spirit (and much stronger journalism skills) and we worked together with the same mission statement. We would champion Canadian music or die trying. Now, none of us actually died (though we drank enough that we probably should have), but we did eventually grow up and realize stuff like eating and paying rent is also important. We had to divide our time between the job we would continue to do along with the job that would continue to keep us alive.

The years have been kind to our musical friends. Broken Social Scene, Metric, Feist, Stars, The Dears, Arcade Fire — along with many other bands we wrote about in those early years — acheived great success. We got to be happy for them and happy we came along for the ride. Although most of those people don't know us by name, we like to think they felt our presence.

Like these bands, we all had our ups and downs. Some of us still write about music, some of us don't. But we could always rely on music to keep us together.

In June, I sat at the Field Trip festival, which featured both Stars and Broken Social Scene, with the people I shared those albums with. It got me thinking. I was with a couple who called the festival's line-up the soundtrack to their relationship, a newlywed couple whose greatest bond is music, and other friends whom I’ve seen all these bands with many times before — and who I'll see them with many times again. I reflected on how these people are like family to me and how we owe it to one album. If that album was never released we would have never come together in the ways we did; we wouldn’t be sitting here right now pooling together money for more beer.

Looking around the festival, I could see it other peoples' faces, too. We all felt the same way. We all wanted to hear You Forgot it in People in its entirely with the people we'll never forget. Couples held each other, children held hands and I held a tear back from my eye.

Leaving the show, after feeling the raw emotion of a band who loves the city we live in — and its fans — there was an unspoken conversation. These bands don't need us anymore, but others do. Though our love of these bands will never end, the era we lived in with them is over; it's time to move on. Broken Social Scene is a band that never forgot where it came from and I believe that's the most grounding, down to earth and accessible thing about them. It's one of the reasons their music wraps around us like a sweater. A sweater weaved with some of the most talented musicians, writers, producers and artists we'll ever know.

I'd like to wear that sweater for the rest of my life, but there will always be times it stays in the drawer. I'll never forget it's there, how it makes me feel and why I will always keep it close to me. That sweater brought me purpose, friendship, and above all, family. I owe my life to that sweater. To that album. To that band.


Cody McGraw is many things but the thing you can actually call him to his face is the Managing Editor of The Little Red Umbrella. See more posts from him here or follow him on Twitter @cody_mcgraw.

First photo: You Forgot it in People by Broken Social Scene
Second photo: Field Trip (by Adam Bunch)


Anonymous said...

well said.

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