Sometimes the test of how great a band is can be boiled down to their b-sides. Take the Pixies, The Smiths or New Order—each band had their fair share of album castoffs that became classics among fans, and for good reason. Imagine a discography without “Manta Ray,” “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” or “Procession”; seems incomplete, doesn’t it? Space age popsters Broadcast, as well, have around two dozen b-sides and compilation tracks that make up a sizeable portion of their discography, and like the aforementioned post-punk heroes, Broadcast’s non-album material is often among their best. I spent the better part of my freshman year of college tracking down songs like “Locusts” and “Where Youth and Laughter Go,” and often failed due to my school’s Napster ban. No local record stores carried any of the import singles, and I eventually shelled out for the “Come On Let’s Go” CD single, which was shipped to me from the UK. The RA doling out the mail that day made some comment to the effect of “you got a package from Germany or something,” which I figured could only be my precious geeky musical prize.
Not everyone is like me, however, and most listeners don’t go to great lengths to track down import vinyl and the like. So Broadcast, upon realizing that there was more than enough to warrant a compilation, released just that. Future Crayon puts together all of the group’s rarities from the haha Sound and The Noise Made by People eras, and though they don’t flow quite like albums proper, they make for an invigorating and gorgeous collection of extraordinary pop and post-rock.
On tracks like the almost girl-group like “Illumination,” Broadcast visits ’60s-inspired retro-pop, while floating in cinematic bliss on the trippy anthem “Still Feels Like Tears,” which is easily accessible enough to have been a single on its own. Kitschy electronics plink and crackle on “Where Youth and Laughter Go,” one of the prettiest and easily best tracks on here, climaxing with a surf-guitar laden chorus overlain with Trish Keenan’s “aah-aahs.” Odd instrumentals like “One Hour Empire” abound, breaking up the delicate intricacies with distorted hi-jinks. And the hypnotic “Locusts” is one of my personal favorites, a timpani-heavy psychedelic journey with almost robotic vocal delivery on the part of Keenan.
The songs on Future Crayon occupy an odd space, in which they don’t quite fit in with album tracks, yet they’re miles above most bands’ leftovers. Though I admit it’s been some time since I’ve pulled those old Broadcast singles out of the shelves, listening to Future Crayon reminded me of why I got them in the first place. No matter how they’re packaged or how difficult they may be to come by at times (which they’re not anymore, thanks to this), they’re still essentials.
Broadcast – haha Sound
Plone – For Beginner Piano
The United States of America – The United States of America
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.