Broadcast : The Future Crayon
The measure of a band’s worth can sometimes be boiled down to their b-sides. Take the Pixies, Cocteau Twins 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,” “Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops” or “Procession.” Space-age psych-pop group Broadcast, as well, have around two dozen b-sides and compilation tracks that make up a sizable 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 could only have my precious musical collectors’ prize.
Not everyone is like me, however, and tracking down import vinyl isn’t always the most practical course of action. So Broadcast, upon realizing that there was more than enough to warrant a compilation, did just that. The 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 psychedelic pop and glitchy electronics.
On tracks like “Illumination,” Broadcast visits ’60s-inspired retro-pop, while floating in cinematic bliss on the trippy anthem “Still Feels Like Tears,” which is a strong enough track 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-aah.” 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 drum-heavy psychedelic journey with almost robotic vocal delivery from Keenan.
The songs on The Future Crayon occupy an odd space, in which they don’t quite fit in with the band’s album tracks, yet they’re by no means less interesting or, in some cases, even accessible. Though I admit it’s been some time since I’ve pulled those old Broadcast singles out of the shelves, listening to The Future Crayon reminded me of why I got them in the first place. No matter how they’re packaged or what context they might lack without the luxury of a full-length, they’re essentials all the same.
Buy this album at Turntable Lab
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.