A lot of good things have come in and out of Broken Social Scene. They aren’t deemed a Canadian supergroup for nothing. A hoard of talented artists make up the collective, and a lot of groundbreaking music is created both inside the BSS vessel and in its various offshoots (e.g. Feist, Metric, Do Make Say Think, Stars, Land of Talk). It’s a tightly knit group of musicians that helps build one another up for the bettering of each other’s music. Oh, and did we mention that they’re all incredibly talented? They’ve also got that going for them.
One individual who often gets overlooked when Broken Social Scene is discussed is the immensely talented Jason Collett. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s not an original member of the group. Or maybe it’s the fact that he was only with the band for a few tours and one album. Or maybe it’s because he was just some backing vocalist/guitarist and he easily faded into the crowded, star-studded background.
Whatever the reason, it’s a shame that he isn’t mentioned more often and that his contributions to BSS didn’t bring him more fame. The man has an obvious knack for song craft, and he’s got a voice so infectious it’ll stick in your head for days. This is going to sound bold given that Feist, Emily Haines, Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, and Amy Millan have all tried their hands at solo albums, but I think the best solo album to come out of BSS belongs to Jason Collett. 2005’s Idols of Exile is nearly perfect. His blend of jaunty guitar rhythms, Bob Dylan-esque vocal strains, and endearingly witty lyricisms make for an album that is supremely listenable.
That said, this release – Pony Tricks – is utterly lackluster (and that’s putting it nicely). It’s a regurgitated collection of some of his more popular songs, recorded in different (awful) arrangements, and done so acoustically. It also includes two new tracks, but even those aren’t anything to write home about. Some of the older songs are listenable, but only two of them are worth listening to. The re-worked version of “Bitch City”, originally off his latest record Rat A Tat Tat, is a rare look into what a talented guitarist he is, and it truly showcases his lazily beautiful voice. Also, the new arrangement of “Papercut Hearts” is impressive as he swoons in and out of gorgeous, quiet chords. The remaining nine tracks, though? Stick to the studio versions: They’re exponentially better and more true to what sort of artist Collett is.
This is going to sound harsh, but sometimes the truth hurts: You and I would both be better off forgetting he ever released this album and sticking to the studio versions. Jason Collett is an enormously gifted individual, but it is sparsely shown on Pony Tricks.