Broadcast - Tender Buttons LP

(Warp Records, 2005)


“Tender Buttons has a uniquely fresh, modern feel. Sparingly applied beats, intricate but subtle guitars, and hazy synths dominate the album, providing a restrained backdrop for Keenan's quietly commanding voice and crossword-puzzle lyrics. As if to underscore Broadcast's new aesthetic, Tender Buttons opens with some of its most radical departures: "I Found the F"'s largely spoken vocals and driving bassline, "Black Cat"'s austere pulse, and the title track's whispery, sinister sensuality all stretch (or rather, shrink) the boundaries of what a Broadcast song can be. At first, these tracks just sound unfinished, but the beauty of their bareness reveals itself eventually. Not all of Tender Buttons is this naked. The single "America's Boy" (which somehow manages to play into and dismiss the mythic American soldier at the same time) and "Arc of a Journey"'s stargazing are a little more fleshed out, nodding to the full, swirling sound of Broadcast's earlier work without rehashing it. Likewise, "Michael a Grammar" and "Goodbye Girls" offer a more colorful, charming spin on the band's new approach. Still, Tender Buttons' most restrained moments are often most striking: "You and Me in Time" plays like a delicately surreal update of Julee Cruise's spacy torch-pop, while the absolutely stunning vignette "Tears in the Typing Pool" makes the most of an acoustic guitar and Keenan's gorgeous vocals and evocative songwriting skills. Oddly enough, Tender Buttons' simplicity makes it more demanding than Broadcast's other work; it requires more than just a few listens to sink in. However, the tension between Broadcast's catchy and aloof, experimental sides is what makes their music intriguing, and Tender Buttons is no different in that regard: even when it seems to be stripped bare, it's still full of mystery.” - Heather Phares for AllMusic