RIP Trish Keenan of Broadcast

January 14th, 2011 · 2 Comments · By

Sad to report that Trish Keenan of the excellent UK band Broadcast has just passed away. She was relatively young, and apparently died of complications from double pneumonia, which she had been fighting for a few weeks.

Broadcast were one of my favorite WARP Records bands of the 00’s; the early buzz about them, when they started out in the late 90’s was that they were sort of Stereolab-lite, and I had sort of foolishly assumed that was the case… until I saw them play live. The first time was back in 2000, they were opening for Godspeed You Black Emperor! at the El Ray in Los Angeles, on Halloween. It was a great show all around (apart from the first act, Mecca Normal, whom I’ve never much cared for), but Broadcast came close to stealing the show. I expected mellow downtempo lounge-y music, and what I got was an epically transcendent high-energy neo-Krautrock explosion. They had taken electronic/ pop experiments, groovy “motorik beats,” and the best parts of 60’s avant-garde rock and fused into something dark, weird, and hypnotically great. They were playing in front of an endless barrage of awesome educational-film footage, and at the center of the whole thing Trish Keenan was this sort of serenely classy and enticing presence of wisdom and gentleness; she was like the eye of the hurricane, the focal point around which the whole band emanated. At that point it was one of the best live sets I’ve ever seen (They were also so LOUD that I pretty much lost hearing in my right ear for the first half of Godspeed!s 90-minute set… and I didn’t even mind).

I picked up their “Extended Play Two” EP at the show, and it’s still one of my favorite Broadcast records (long OOP, but the tracks are all included on 2007’s uniformly excellent odds-and-sods collection “The Future Crayon”). I soon discovered the rest of their material was pretty great as well (though I’d recommend starting with “Work and Non-Work,” their early singles collection, over their more-popular first album “Noise Made By People.”).  I managed to catch the classic Broadcast live lineup twice more, around the time 2003’s excellent album “Haha Sound” came out (both times were at… the Troubadour? the Whisky? I can’t remember), and they were pretty killer both times. “Haha Sound” is also probably the quintessential Broadcast album, the point where their recorded material really broke through and came together as it’s own wonderful and classic thing; the songs got better, the music got more experimental but also more cohesive… it’s just a fucking great album. “Pendulum” was their heaviest single, and “Valerie” is a cool reworking of the theme from the wacky 1970 Czech film “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders,” but every time I listen to that record again I’m reminded of the excellent deep cuts like “Distortion,” “Minim” or “Winter Now.”

Over the next few years, the band sort-of “broke up,” or at least several members left until it was basically just Trish and one other guy. That would be the end of most bands, but somehow they just changed tactics and put out 2005’s “Tender Buttons,” which sounds something like the 60’s BBC Radiophonic Workshop attempting to make an 80’s synth-pop album. Surprisingly it worked out exceedingly well; to this day I don’t understand why “Goodbye Girls” wasn’t a HUGE hit, as it singlehandedly outclasses anything that came out of the foolhardly “electroclash” rush of the early aughts. (The record also featured an appearance by one of the ex-members of Plone, my favorite short-lived / soon-forgotten band of the late 90’s, who would go on to form the current band Seeland with one of the former fellows from Broadcast.) It took me a while to get around to picking up 2009’s “Witch Cults of the Radio Era,” Broadcast’s full-length collaboration with the Focus Group, but it’s been in heavy rotation on my stereo in the past month or two; less “song”y than their previous outings, but no less thoughtful and solid.

Anyway, I was saddened to hear that Trish Keenan passed away, so I thought I would take some time to share some remembrances of the band. I would love to do an all-Broadcast show on my WTJU time-slot this weekend, but unfortunately the new FCC guidelines for radio stations with internet-streaming content (effective Jan. 1, 2011) prevent playing the same band more than 2 or 3 times per hour; however, I should note that WTJU alum Andy Blossom put together two tributes to Broadcast during WTJU marathons in years past, and I have copies of those if anyone would like to hear them. Also, Pitchfork has a bunch of material up, this blog has a ton of mp3s and clips from some recent live shows, and of course the WARP site has plenty of material as well.

We should have a post up about tonight’s Cville gigs later in the day; until then, does anyone have any favorite Broadcast stories, songs, memories, tales, etc?

Tags: news · rants & rambles

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Davis // Jan 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Really sad about this. There are many wonderful Broadcast songs, and they were wonderful live, but for some reason this song makes me feel good about humanity walking around New York. I think I listened to it about 10 times in a row last time it came up on the ipod. Please don’t watch the video, I wanted to post the album version, but the youtubery is all clips from “Halloween” which just doesn’t fit the song or the moment:

  • 2 Stephanie // Jan 26, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Wow this is so sad. I love Broadcast. Their music brings me back to my first year out of college. Thanks for posting this. Pendulum is one of my all time favorites.