Broadcast

Warp

As a band known for spending too much time in the studio, Broadcast was always just a few tweaks away from delivering a completely bland recording. The group’s latest, Tender Buttons, finally fulfills that lack of promise. The familiar outlines of the songs of chanteuse Trish Keenan and her significant other/bass player, James Cargill, are still there, all buzzing organs and distant vocals. But on Tender Buttons, Broadcast seems to be smarting from the loss of guitarist Tim Felton, who left the band after the last record was released, apparently taking all prohibions on the use of electronics with him. The two remaining Broadcast members have developed quite a heavy habit for the stuff—letting an analog-sounding drum machine take over beat duty, turning period-appropriate organ parts into digital distortion gurgles, and generally allowing too much of the late 20th century into the mix. Some of the worst offenses occur on “Goodbye Girls,” a song that starts with what sounds like a Juno-programmed arpeggio and a few organ farts, which are then joined by a simple, early-’80s drumbeat. The track also catches Keenan in a rare moment during which her ethereal voice comes back to Earth, her delivery more nursery-school singsong than Nico-simple. “Michael A Grammar” also sounds too tech-tinny, employing a digital pitch shifter to make that noise that accompanies a Mario Brother’s jumping on an angry mushroom. The tune is sort of redeemed by Keenan, whose conversational lyrics accuse the song’s protagonist’s father of being a teddy boy and repeatedly proclaim, “My feet are dancing so much and I hate it.” But even the album’s finer moments find Broadcast in a daze. The disc’s opener, “I Found the F,” eases so seamlessly into the next, “Black Cat,” that it’s hard to tell where the break is. (Of course, the fact that the latter sounds almost exactly like the former helps the transition.) “America’s Boy,” the album’s first single and its clear hit, finds the band taking a crack at politics. “The eagle lands and he commands,” coos Keenan amid sounds of gunfire and other anti-war signifiers. Though the message bears repeating, it rings false when delivered by Broadcast, whose greatest concerns still seem to be about what knobs to turn when. —Mike Kanin

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