Our nation’s governmental process is endlessly intriguing. If one suspends all jaded awareness of the Bush administration’s crusade in the name of the upper tax brackets, adopting instead a glistening naiveté, the ways in which our elected officials gather together and discuss laws and issues and, theoretically at least, try to find viable solutions to these problems can be a fascinating process.
But — and on this point there can be no disagreement — any human being with a functioning brain would rather boil in a fiery cauldron of Tabasco than watch C-Span for any extended stretch of time. (By "extended" I mean "at all.") The endless disputes over semantics and the drawn-out filibusters are not what the public wants to see. The masses are interested purely in the results.
Broadcast’s newest EP, Pendulum, is the musical equivalent of C-Span in terms of its chronological point in the creative process. Broadcast’s last LP, 2000’s The Noises People Make, gave sprightly ’60s pop an electronic makeover. Pendulum finds the band exploring ways to advance that sound, but that’s the problem: they’re still exploring. It’s a promising exploration, but these songs pull in so many directions over the short 20-minute time frame that it’s difficult to make much sense of it.
Outside of the title track, the songs here are largely instrumental. Trish Keenan’s vocals appear on three of the six songs, but they’re buried so deep in the track that you can barely make out the lyrics. In a way it works, because Broadcast seem interested in creating atmospheres rather than tangible pop tunes. Good thing: the erratic "One Hour Empire" sounds like the soundtrack to the kind of sci-fi movie that the Mystery Science Theater crew could sink their teeth into, and the plodding drum-and-random-noise-solo of "Violent Playground" won’t be coming to your local radio station any time soon.
The testing grounds do provide some possible answers. The title track offers the Broadcast equivalent of a banging rock song, and the closer, "Minus Two," seems to be the epitome of their experimentation and the discovery of the precarious balance between futuristic electronics and traditional pop — either that, or someone absent-mindedly pressing every single button on their sampler and calling it a song. Pendulum provides an inside look at a band trying to decide exactly where to go next. It’s likely these recording sessions won’t bear fruit until their next proper full-length. You can stay up all night watching it take shape live on C-Span, but I’d recommend reading about the final vote in the morning paper.