By Vish KhannaThough his primary subject is clear, in his new book This Book is Broken: A Broken Social Scene Story, Toronto music critic Stuart Berman presents a fascinating account of a powerful music movement in Canadian indie rock. Framed as a comprehensive visual/oral history of the band and its label Arts & Crafts, Berman's book chronicles the dramatic rise of Broken Social Scene, but also the city they call home.
Beyond the ever-growing membership of the BSS collective and its closest collaborators, principal personalities from Toronto's music landscape - show bookers, upstart label instigators, and like-minded musicians - provide firsthand flavour about an auspicious period (the mid-'90s onward) that spawned an internationally-renowned artistic community. "One of the things I tried to chart in this book is how all 58 or so of these people came together," Berman explains. "I've always been a big believer in chaos theory and the idea that small changes create snowball effects; this story is very much the case."
As a joint effort with Broken Social Scene, This Book is Broken possesses a sentimental, familial bent and, commandeered by an early "Torontopia" supporter, the narrative values a unique temporal phase that bolstered a band and city's cultural cachet. "There are many factors that contributed to the band's success, from technological advances, the ineptitude of major labels, and the work of ground level bands like the Hidden Cameras and Three Gut Records' stable," Berman says. "It was this perfect storm that enabled Broken Social Scene to break through."