Dusting Off... Broadcast's Tender Buttons
What is it?
First released in 2005, Tender Buttons is the third studio album by indie-electronica band Broadcast. Formed in Birmingham during the late 1990s, Broadcast were one of those bands whose influence outweighs their own commercial success and even though none of their three studio albums managed to break into the Top 40 of the UK Album Chart, their output often garnered acclaim from critics and their peers, right up until their career was cut short by the tragic death of lead vocalist Trish Keenan in 2011 from pneumonia, the result of complications that arose after the singer contracted the 'swine flu' virus. She was just 42 years old.
Having released a number singles and EPs on the independent Wurlitzer Records imprint, Broadcast signed to Warp Records in 1997, who put out a compilation of their early releases entitled Work and Non Work before the band released their first LP proper, The Noise Made By People, in 2000. Despite modest sales of the album, the band's dreamy, experimental blend of electronica earned them many fans, particularly from other musicians and music journalists, thanks in no small part to Keenan's unique, often haunting vocals. They followed up their debut with 2003's Ha Ha Sound before releasing Tender Buttons two years later. Although they would release a further album in 2009 in collaboration with The Focus Group, Tender Buttons would become their final studio album released solely under the Broadcast name.
Often described as 'dream-pop', Broadcast's sound is difficult to pin down. A blend of the dreamy vocals you'd associate The Cocteau Twins and the wonky electronica of Dan Deacon and The Books, combined with the blue-eyed naiveté of The Free Design, Tender Buttons finds the band at their most accomplished, delivering searingly beautiful moments of delicate yet powerful music. Highlights include tracks such as album opener 'I Found The F' and the guitar and Mellotron-propelled 'Tears in the Typing Pool', but as with many of the albums we've featured in Dusting Off, this is a record that deserves to be played in its entirety.
Why should I revisit?
Broadcast's legacy has grown over the years that have passed since Keenan's death and anyone who enjoyed the beautifully disturbing soundtrack to Peter Strickland's 2012 film Berberian Sound Studio may not have realised they were listening to Broadcast's work. The only soundtrack album the band ever produced, it is also the last of their releases to include Keenan's voice.
However, there is good news on the horizon as this week sees the reissue of Broadcast's back catalogue and there may even be more new music to come. The band's other key member James Cargill revealed in late 2013 that he was tentatively beginning work on a new album featuring vocals recorded by Keenan before her untimely passing. Although it's been a while since any new updates on a forthcoming new LP have emerged, the reissues represent an opportunity to rediscover one of the most overlooked bands the UK has produced in recent years.
Who will enjoy it?
Fans of experimental electronica acts like the aforementioned Dan Deacon or The Books will find some common ground with Broadcast's music, as will those who enjoy Liz Fraser's way with a crystalline melody, but Broadcast's albums are challenging without being inaccessible and, really, we'd recommend this to anyone.