"Broken Social Scene"

Arts & Crafts

There are no limits on Broken Social Scene's enrollment. The Toronto-based indie-pop collective is up to 17 members, including musicians who also have solo careers or are full-timers with such bands as Stars and Metric.

There is a limit, however, on just how much stuff can be crammed into a single song or an individual CD. The Scene tried to finesse the latter problem on its third (and self-titled) album by adding seven other songs on an EP slipped into the fold-out package. But it couldn't devise an extra compartment to hold the extraneous synth bits, incongruous horn bleats and other clutter that make this music the aural equivalent of a compulsive hoarder's attic.

It's possible that even producer David Newfeld and masterminds Brendan Caning and Kevin Drew don't know exactly what's on the main disc's 14 songs.

Handwritten credits identify the musicians on individual tracks, but one list ends with a shrugging "and who ever else." The music sounds that way, too, with unidentifiable voices and instruments smudging the melodies and hobbling the transitions. In some cases, the confusion may be for the best: "Hotel," for example, would probably just sound like second-rate neo-soul in a cleaner arrangement. But songs as shapely as "7/4 (Shoreline)" would benefit from the clarity that distinguishes only one number, the album-closing "It's All Gonna Break." This album doesn't need a remix; what it calls for is an unraveling.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Wednesday at the 9:30 club with Feist.

On Broken Social Scene's new CD, bigger isn't always better.