I first saw Edinburgh’s Broken Records live over sixteen years ago, as a support act in a small venue. It wasn’t just clear that they had potential, they were already brilliant. Over the course of five albums, there has been a steady change of membership but the core of Ian Turnbull, and the Sutherland brothers, Jamie and Rory, remain. New to the band for this album is bassist Clarissa Cheong, who also played bass for Edinburgh’s slowcore heroes eagleowl (that lower case ‘e’ is meant to be there, by the way).
This is their fifth album, and their first since 2018’s What We Might Know. It opens with the slow-burning ‘You Won’t Be There‘ which sets the tone for much of the album that follows. We may be past lockdowns but the shadow of that time hangs over this album.
It’s a record which is far removed from early tracks like ‘If the News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It” where Scottish dancing would break out at gigs (and quite wonderful it was, too). At this point in time, the band’s experiences of becoming parents and losing friends has seeped into the album. It’s a reflective album, more of a late night album, rather than a party album. The band have talked about how the likes of Bruce Springsteen and 1990’s era R.E.M. have been an influence; being Broken Records, they have absorbed these influences and made it their own, rather than simply making a carbon copy (Lord knows there’s plenty of those albums out there). ‘Drink away the summer’s fading light‘ Jamie sings on ‘An Answer‘ and that could sum up this album most appropriately indeed.
They can still do epic, and the centrepiece and standout track of this album might well be ‘Swoon.’ It’s a truly beautiful piece of work, slowly building as strings and trumpet meet, before eventually keyboards and vocals come in, and offering a sign of hope and promise. I’m looking forward to hearing this live, with an audience singing it back at them.
So yes, Broken Records have done it again. Here’s an album to ponder and enjoy as the sun sets ever earlier (though I think, given how much I’ve been playing this, it will come to have its own meaning in different seasons). I’ve no idea how long it will take for album number six (although their twentieth anniversary is just over the horizon – hint! hint! folks), but on this evidence, they should take just as long as they need. In the meantime, though, I’m going to press play once again…