Curiouser and Curiouser
Buttons, Warp Records
"Tender Buttons' simplicity makes it more demanding than Broadcast's other work; it requires more than just a few listens to sink in.
-- Heather Phares, AMG
I didn't give Tender But-
tons the chance it deserv-
ed upon its 2005 release. I
heard "America's Boy" and
"Black Cat" on KEXP, and they sounded fine, but more convention-
ally structured than before. It wasn't that Broadcast had sold out or gone pop, but that those two tracks weren't as strange or oth-
erworldly as the material with which I had first fallen in love.
Then they joined forces with the Focus Group for 2009's In-
vestigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age, and I got all the
strange, otherworldliness I could desire, so much in fact that I
wasn't sure what to think at first, but it grew on me in a big way,
and that convinced me to re-evaluate Tender Buttons. After
all, I had enjoyed everything else with which Trish and James
had been involved, including B-sides and other ephemera.
Now that Trish Keenan is no longer with us (she passed away
in January), I wish I'd taken time to explore this record while she
was still around, because it's hardly the misstep I feared. On the
contrary, it marks another triumph for the Birmingham duo.
Aside from the singles, other highlights include the swirling "Tears
in the Typing Pool," which features Keenan's most enchanting vo-
cal; the buzzing, crackling "Corporeal," which seems even sadder
in light of her premature passing ("Do that to me, do that to my
anatomy"); and the skeletal, bass-driven instrumental "Bit 35,"
which plays like a tribute to the great Young Marble Giants.
With most groups, it's usually best to start with their first re-
cord before exploring the rest of the catalog, but in the case of
Broadcast, you could start with Tender Buttons and get a
taste of the band at their best and most distinctive. A beauti-
ful way to say goodbye--even if that wasn't the intention.
Click here for a disquisition on black cats in the media.
Endnote: Image from Warp Records.