Broadcast Tender Buttons

[Warp; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: indie electronica, dream pop, space rock, neo-psych
Others: I, like so many others, originally came to Broadcast via their lil’ sister relationship with Stereolab. When I first heard them, my indie hipster cronies were offering positive yet somewhat tepid vi

Tender Buttons is a fairly strong, unified effort on its own. But faced with this as the follow-up to 2003's kaleidoscopic HaHa Sound, this half-hour buzz of devastated synth melodies brutalized over chugging basslines makes the absence of the third lost Broadcaster, guitarist Tim Felton, hard not to notice. Without him is gone the intelligent live drumming and richly layered electronics, the percussion now replaced by precise drum machine beats while the layers are filled in by the aforementioned synths. Many tracks sound like they're simply missing a piece, no matter how much the duo of monotone vocalist Trish Keenan and fellow United States Of America (the band) fan James Cargill gel to cover it up. However, Trish and James are capable musicians and Tender Buttons has its merits. Specifically, the more minimalist approach allows/forces Keenan's surrealist lyricism to take a larger role in their sound. "America's Boy" sees her pushing Broadcast into an obviously political vein I'm not used to seeing them in, as she toys with, in her own words, the "self celebratory nature of Americans toward their own country." I must say, though, that while I like this CD, I'd like to see Keenan and Cargill work more towards reinventing and evolving themselves as opposed to trying to repeat the successes of the past, which is what it sounds like they're doing a lot of the time. I'd really hate to see Trish fade off like Portishead's Beth Gibbons.

1. I Found The F
2. Black Cat
3. Tender Buttons
4. America's Boy
5. Tears In The Typing Pool
6. Corporeal
7. Bit 35
8. Arc Of A Journey
9. Michael A Grammar
10. Subject To The Ladder
11. Evil Is Coming
12. Goodbye Girls
13. You And Me In Time
14. I Found The End