Broadcast Pendulum

    The Future Crayon


    Broadcast is a band that’s easy to ignore. And what’s even easier to ignore than a band that’s easy to ignore? An eighteen-song rarities collection that is also, yes, easy to ignore. It’s an apathetic response in the same vein as how people (falsely) approach Yo La Tengo and (accurately) Boards of Canada. Will someone please run over and shake me from my ears, for the love of Moses? I need resuscitation, and this won’t do, man! Punch me, slap me, tweak my nipples. Anything!


    The problem, though, when we prematurely adopt this line of thinking based on snap judgments and overheard opinion is that we miss the real beauty of a project. And in Broadcast’s case, it’s the type of studio intricacies and quirks that’ll have your ears pressed firmly against speakers in search of every last dip, bend and hiccup along the road.


    Take, for instance, the snail-slow build of the Birmingham, England, quintet’s “Unchanging Window/Chord Simple,” which, if it weren’t for a so-quick-you’ll-miss-it intro evocative of Another Green Earth Eno, would be entirely non-affecting for its initial three minutes. But something clicks, and the song just begins to make sense. The twinkle of the piano and synths becomes effervescent, the bass buzz sinks in with a brutally oppressive weight, and the drums scatter across the track with precise spontaneity.


    Elsewhere, “Poem of Dead Song” skips forth like a cool Serge Gainsbourg ballad with multiple head turns and a familiarly retro synth and drum interaction that gently glistens like a Brill Building 45 — but, you know, in stereo. “One Hour Empire” and “Minus Two” notch is Broadcast at its most abrasive, the former building on echoing guitar stabs, distant percussive clatters and all done in swing time to ensure the listener has absolutely no idea what’s going on, and the latter constructing a noise collage of sorts that quickly flips back and forth between soothing and dissonant.


    It’s no surprise that the rarities collected on The Future Crayon (some certainly rarer than others, such as “Test Area,” a B-side to the “Echo’s Answer” single, and “Distant Call,” the flipside of the “Come on Let’s Go” seven-inch) succeeds in being just as captivating as the band’s proper albums — or perhaps even more so. With the delayed-appreciation factor weighing in, I can’t help but ponder the idea that rarities — essentially songs skipped over by everyone — are how this group should be heard.


    Frankly, I blame vocalist Trish Keenan’s half-dead lilt. Her voice is absolutely stunning, especially when it’s recalling girl groups of the past. But the guise is that of ennui, which subversively works to distract or even cover up Broadcast’s studio triumphs. Easy to ignore? Yes, but that’s exactly why we have to pay even closer attention.


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