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BROADCAST
Tender Buttons

WARPCD136
Warp Records 2005
14 Tracks. 40mins32secs

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Right from their first EP, released on Wurlitzer Jukebox in 1997, Birmingham’s Broadcast have develop a particular blend of experimental pop heavily influenced by sixties and seventies psychedelia and avant-garde pop tainted of modern electronic tones, originally setting them in the shadow of Stereolab. Yet, if the two bands share a similar vision and common influences, ranging from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and bands such as The United States Of America or White Noise to library music, Broadcast have benefited from the start of a far more acute sense of pop music, allowing them to experiment while remaining accessible.

Now a duo following the departure of guitarist Tim Felton, Broadcast have swapped the rich textures and multiple layers of previous records for a much rawer and grittier sound, based on dry electronics, bass, processed guitars and singer Trish Keenan’s deadpan voice. Stripped down to its bare essentials, the music shows Broadcast under new lights, bringing Keenan’s bittersweet and often surrealist lyrics right at the forefront.

Recorded entirely at Keenan and Cargill’s home in Birmingham and produced by the band, Tender Buttons is a far more intimate record than its predecessor. The recent single, America’s Boy, hinted at more minimalist soundscapes, and this is confirmed on the album. Yet, this serves Broadcast rather well. On songs such as the superb Black Cat, America’s Boy, Goodbye Girls or the annoyingly catchy Michael A Grammar, Keenan and Cargill work around frail distorted electronics and interferences on which they add guitars, bass and linear drum beats. Elsewhere, on the more subdued Tears In The Typing Pool or You And Me In Time, they craft delicate backdrops out of guitars and subtle sine waves, evoking in places a space-age Velvet Underground.

If Tender Buttons reveals a more purely electronic approach, Broadcast are miles apart from the electro glam of Goldfrapp. Their soundscapes have more in common with that of the Radiophonic Workshop than that of Giorgio Moroder. Reduced to a duo, Broadcast experiment with new forms and find a totally new creative freedom. Gone are the ultra sophisticated drum patterns and arrangements, replaced by drum machines and raw sounds, but the pair appear as much at ease here as they did before. Remain the finely detailed melodies and Keenan’s refined lyrics. Broadcast have grown up, got rid of the excess luggage and focused on the essential elements in their music to produce a consistent, confident and mature record.

Broadcast are a truly underrated band, and Tender Buttons is unlikely to get them attention from the masses, but this is hardly what they are after. Their music requires for the listener to get involved and look out for the crucial details in every song, and that is what makes their records as fascinating as each other. Tender Buttons might be less accessible than its predecessors, in appearance at least, yet it is also Broadcast’s more human and accomplished record to date.

4.8/5

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TRACKLIST

I Found The F
Black Cat
Tender Buttons
America's Boy
Tears In The Typing Pool
Corporeal
Bit 35
Arc Of A Journey
Michael A Grammar
Subject To The Ladder
Evil Is Coming
You And Me In Time
I Found The End

BROADCAST Discography

THE SURFER'S GUIDE TO BROADCAST
Broadcast
Warp Records
The World Backwards

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