Saturday 7 March 2015


1996 was one of those very rare years when both the best (ok, my favourite) album and single came from different debutants: Tigermilk by Belle and Sebastian, and Accidentals by Broadcast. I fell out of love with both bands by 2000, for very different reasons. No amount of Belle and Sebastian re-evaluation will persuade me to reconsider their later efforts; I was, however, completely wrong about Broadcast.

I moved back to London in 1996. I made some new friends, all of whom I told about Broadcast. They all saw Broadcast live. And again, and again. Their electronic hypnosis was addictive. At a time when everyone else seemed convinced that the future was Bowie or Beatles songs reheated by boys who learnt everything they knew from compilation CDs bought at a petrol station, Broadcast showed the way forward by building on a bright future suggested by the 1960s avant-garde that had hitherto largely been ignored.

With just 3 more singles in 3 years, much of my devotion and admiration came from seeing Broadcast live. But this admiration cooled when in early 2000 I heard The Noise Made By People.

I thought they were stuck in a rut made from listening to only the United States of America and Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies. More accurately, my repertoire of reference points was much narrower than their breadth of vision. I had no knowledge of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or the esoteric wonder of Eastern European electronic music.

I'm not much more knowledgeable now, but I'm less likely to rush to judgement, and my scope is broader than just wanting big, immediate, pop hooks. Broadcast's music is informed by curiosity and enriched by imagination. I bet they bought records just because they looked interesting and made records just because they'd interest people who were as curious and welcome to new, adventurous and uncompromising sounds as they were.

If you want morals, there are two lessons here:

1. Don't write bands off that you love if you don't immediately get what they do next. You loved them because they're wiser and cooler than you'll ever be. They're probably right.

2. Even if, try as you might, you don't like an album by a band you once loved, it doesn't mean their next one won't be brilliant. Case in point: The Soundcarriers.

3. Leave it too long and you'll have to spend a fortune buying the records, or wait until they get reissued.

4. Learn to count (as well as listen).

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