Album Review: Broken Records – Let Me Come Home (4AD)

Elegant and beautiful... Imagine how fantastic this Edinburgh band could be if somebody fixed them!

There’s an earnestness to ‘Let Me Come Home’ that threatens to kneecap the record and leave it bloodied in a ditch. Frontman Jamie Sutherland never sings: he intones, he howls, he growls and bellows but never does he do anything as unrefined as merely ‘sing’. His band, meanwhile, conjure such merry hell behind him, throwing fistfuls of strings and heartbeat basslines at the soaring choruses, making [a]Broken Records[/a]’ second album take flight like last year’s debut ‘Until The Earth Begins To Part’ seemed it might, but never did. Oh Scotland! How you bless us, etc.

Of course, that’s all hideously wordy bollocks, but such is the effect of ‘Let Me Come Home’ – it turns the mundane into the majestic thanks to the Edinburgh sextet’s sheer force of will. Words like ‘epic’, ‘inspiring’, ‘Arcade’ and ‘Fire’ are horribly overused, but in this case they’re hard to avoid, because [a]Broken Records[/a] just… try so hard. And their endeavours, it’s a pleasure to report, pay off.

‘Modern Worksong’ and ‘The Motorcycle Boy Reigns’ are both violin-string taut and gloriously loose. They’re electrified by Sutherland’s breathy vocals and the twinkling production of Tony Doogan ([a]Mogwai[/a], [a]Belle & Sebastian[/a]). Songs like ‘A Darkness Rises Up’ have the delirious energy that only comes from a group of people playing music in a room, egging each other on to play harder. Moreover, while there’s a significant weight pressing down on much of the album – like we must clasp these songs to our hearts because they mean so much to their authors – the effect is exultant rather than depressing. ‘Let Me Come Home’ is exactly like walking home in the rain after a crap party with music throbbing through headphones: it looks like it should be thoroughly miserable but there’s no better way to end a long Saturday night.

And while the group’s debut was handicapped by the sense that with so many members they didn’t know quite what everyone should be doing at any one time, now Broken Records have learned the power of restraint. Rather than chucking everything into the mix and hoping for magic, they know how to tease. To wit: on ‘A Leaving Song’ and ‘Ailene’ the licks of violin and an ominous chiming piano turn complex, messy emotions into something victorious, while ‘I Used To Dream’ has a folkish tinge that starts intimately and blossoms boldly. It’s stirring and cinematic, sure, but not in the way that most indie bands who introduce a string section expect to be called stirring and cinematic – it’s because they have written some staggeringly graceful songs and recorded them with the reverential care of a new father cradling his heir. There aren’t many bands who can pull that off, by the way.

In short, ‘Let Me Come Home’ exists in a world where awe is quiet and reverential, not something to be shouted in capital letters and exclamation marks. It is an elegant and, quite frankly, utterly beautiful record.

Rob Parker

Click here to get your copy of Broken Records’ ‘Let Me Come Home’ from Amazon.