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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Broadcast: Work And Non Work


1) Accidentals; 2) The Book Lovers; 3) Message From Home; 4) Phantom; 5) We've Got Time; 6) Living Room; 7) According To No Plan; 8) The World Backwards; 9) Lights Out.

Officially released as early as 1997, this could be qualified as Broadcast's first LP, although in re­a­lity it was just a collection of several singles that the band originally made for several small la­bels (Wurlitzer Jukebox and Duophonic). Warp Records, which became their home in 1997 and stayed that way to the very end, was kind enough to acquire the rights and flesh out a nine-song mini-LP that lasted them all the way to their proper debut, but, of course, it still tends to fall through the cracks a bit.

From a historical perspective, the songs show that the basic conception of the band was all ready and boiling as early as 1996, when ʽAccidentalsʼ, in all of its lo-fi roughness and still in some debt to trip-hoppiness, introduced them to the world. Trance-inducing psychedelic roundabouts, Keenan's melancholic-somnambulist lulling voice, echoes of The United States Of America, em­phasis on the «electronic barrel organ» vibe, everything is in place.

From a less history-, more context-oriented point of view, though, Work And Non Work (and we could as­sume that the fully fleshed out songs like ʽThe Book Loversʼ could constitute «work», while the more chaotic mood pieces like ʽAccording To No Planʼ — indeed — constitute the «non» part) adds little to one's experience if one is already familiar with The Noise Made By People. ʽThe Book Loversʼ is probably the best song on here (so impressive in its combination of the modern and the retro that it was even borrowed for the soundtrack to Austin Powers), but there is nothing about its emotional powers — that magical-mystery vibe with an ice touch — that they would not do just as well on ʽCome On Let's Goʼ or ʽLong Was The Yearʼ.

Still, the songs are all good; even if the band's penchant for waltz tempos may seem irritating at times, repeated listens bring out subtle individualities in the songs — with all their overdubs and tonal varieties, ʽMessage From Homeʼ, ʽLiving Roomʼ, and ʽThe World Backwardsʼ are at the same time the exact same song (rhythmically, coarse-grained emotionally) and three different ones (ʽMessageʼ is a slightly more personalized lament; ʽLiving Roomʼ is a «take-my-hand-I'll-take-you-through-the-looking-glass» kind of joy-buzzer; ʽThe World Backwardsʼ, closing the album, focuses on beautiful folksy vocalizing to give the song a one-with-the-world feeling).

All in all, this is probably not the best way to start with Broadcast — the lo-fi crackling on ʽAcci­dentalsʼ may be a bit of a turn-off, the vocal hooks are less prominent than on the best songs from Noise, the experimental atmospheric parts do not properly guarantee their atmosphere, and it's all over way too quickly, if you remember your Woody. But for the intermediate/advanced fan, this is definitely more essential than anything released under the name of «Broadcast» since Tender Buttons. So, one more thumbs up, following up on the rest.

Check "Work And Non Work" (CD) on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. OK, since I hounded you about reviewing the compilations I need to acknowledge that you in fact did your due diligence. Sorry for doubting you! As you noted, there are no huge surprises here, just a few toe dips into the Portishead pool. But at least it pushes their good to bad album ratio further in the good direction. Personally I think that Future Crayon, despite ending with a long string of experimental stuff, has enough good songs to warrant its existence as well. So 4.5-5 good albums to 2 bad albums for the amazing shrinking band.