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When is a B-sides collection not really a B-sides collection? How ’bout when most of the aggregated ditties have never before seen the light of day? Confused? Not to worry—lead Broken Social Scenester Kevin Drew is always good for a straightforward explanation. “There is freedom in creating a B-side because it can be whatever you want it to be. It is something besides what is.” Got that, grasshopper? Me neither, but it’s a near-Joycean line of thought that ought to earn Drew an honorary postrock Ph.D. And on the evidence of BSS’s third long-player, Bee Hives, the guy has clearly been doing his homework: Its nine songs are, if not quite something besides what they are, certainly the result of some long, hard thinkin’ on the history of contemporary indie. Consistently blissful and only occasionally difficult, they find Drew and his Toronto-based collective switching gamely from Eno-esque aural soundscapes (“hHallmark,” “Ambulance for the Ambiance”) to joke’s-on-you found noise (the untitled disc-opener) to a shameless Cat Power rip-off (“Lover’s Spit (Redux)”)—all with hardly a 4/4 beat or verse-chorus-verse arrangement to be found. True, BSS does toss an ace pop song into its otherwise self-consciously cerebral mix. But in the midst of so much tuneful detritus, even a percolating, Cure-like toe-tapper such as “Backyards”—which comes outfitted with banjo and a sexy-sweet turn at the mike by longtime BSS-associate Emily Haines—seems like just another too-clever ploy, one more part of the band’s confuse-and-conquer strategy. Still, if Bee Hives is conceptually suspect, the songs it collects don’t suffer a bit. Sonically adventurous but always mindful of the pleasure principle, the album might as well be a greatest-hits package. —Shannon Zimmerman
Broken Social Scene performs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. For more information, call (202) 667-7960.