Broadcast were many things – terribly underappreciated by all but those who knew, warily innovative, consistently good, often great (2003’s career best ‘Haha Sound’ is testament to that) – but more than anything, Broadcast were a cool band. This isn’t a flippant appraisal. Birthed in Birmingham, later based in Berkshire, Broadcast made sharp, dissonant sounds, perhaps akin to a contemporary take on the sensual noir of The Velvet Underground or electronic peers Stereolab with weightier stories to tell.
Picking one song from a potential pool of many, ‘Black Cat’, from 2005’s ‘Tender Buttons’, ably quantifies such comparisons. Many alternative electronic pop outfits that sport similar set ups, equipment and the like, often suffer from being whimsical, cold or inert. Broadcast were none of these things. Full of mythos and allure, their songs were performed with enticing detachment. It’s far from a perfect description, but they were more akin to a rock band that didn’t play rock. At their best they could make your heart skip.
At the crux of it all was singer Trish Keenan, who died of pneumonia this morning. She was young, she was talented, and while the band rarely lifted their masks to reveal who they really were (few Broadcast interviews revealed anything beyond the serial numbers of the equipment they were using), Trish seemed like a nice person, certainly no one you’d wish any ill upon.
Her passing is a tragedy, there’s no other way of looking at it. Listen to her band’s 2000 single ‘Come On Let’s Go’ and you’ll be assured what a unique talent she was; Trish sings the song like St. Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell turned inside out, never hitting the obvious note when a more interesting one will do.
Broadcast formed as a quintet in the mid-90’s (and released a clutch of very pretty singles on Wurlitzer Jukebox and Duophonic shortly thereafter). Later they became a duo, just Trish and partner James Cargill, leaving behind over a decades worth of tonally varied treasures to find and enjoy. Regardless of personnel, Broadcast were arguably as culturally unfashionable at their inception (but never classically unfashionable) as they are at the time of Trish’s passing.
Yet while death would seem to be an full stop at the end of both her and the band’s life, if enjoyment of Trish Keenan’s music would now continue and grow, it’d be a fitting tribute to a singer and her band who rarely enjoyed the accolades she and they deserved in life. Find her songs, play them, cherish them. Trish Keenan and Broadcast are dead. Long live Broadcast and Trish Keenan.