Broadcast's blend of indie-rock, trip-hop, jazz and experimental are what make this melodic little band so appealing. Unfortunately "Work and Non-Work," a collection of early singles, is not so good, relying too heavily on electronic blips and washes and too little on the experimental indiepop.
It opens with the wavery "Accidentals," an eerie ballad that sounds like it was sung underwater, followed by a pair of sound-alike songs, one guitar-led and one almost purely electronic, but possessing a lot of the same beats. The experimental edge gets stronger in songs like the watery "Phantom," and distractingly noisy "We've Got Time."
An indie-rock edge reenters with "Living Room," which hints at the sound Broadcast would end up embracing -- a solid guitar and percussion, overlaid with delicate sound effects. So does "According to No Plan," a funereal trip-hop song. It ends on a note that led up to their more accomplished full-length albums, with the mellow, jazzy-poppy "Lights Out."
Broadcast can be forgiven for not getting into their best sound immediately. They weren't sure what they were going to play, especially if they wanted to be huge -- electronica is a tricky area. For every Stereolab, you have dozens of trippy bands that don't know how to weave their sound together. Fortunately Broadcast steady themselves on the last half of this collection.
Their watery sound is a bit reminiscent of Aspera, or maybe Stereolab on some serious sedatives, but the songs are too loose-knit to be as good. They seem to throw in too many sound effects that aren't necessary -- they're just THERE, hovering over the main melody. Lots of keyboard, of course. And while the guitar is overshadowed by the keyboard in "Book Lovers," it does have plenty of skill to it.
Trish Keenan has a beautiful voice -- sweet, pure and quite strong. Not even the overshadowing keyboard melodies can keep it hidden. Just don't read the lyrics before listening -- the songs themselves are not exceptional. Simple, lacking in details or creative metaphors, and not focusing on anything as spacey as the music.
Fans of Broadcast may want to check out this early collection of singles, to get a better idea of what the band sounded like before their musical breakthroughs. Just be warned -- there's nothing so polished as what they do now even if it is quite pretty.