RIP Trish Keenan from Broadcast

Out of the blue today, some sad news. As reported here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and especially here Trish Keenan, singer in Broadcast has died of Pneumonia at the age of 42.

Broadcast have been one of my favourite bands since I picked up their second single “Living Room”/”Phantom” (as far as I can remember, just because I liked the cover) in 1997. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Comparisons were made with Stereolab around the time, but beyond having a female lead singer there really wasn’t that much they had in common. Maybe Portishead would have been a better comparison, since their songs often contained looped samples from obscure old sixties soundtracks, but Broadcast mainly ploughed their own spooky, crackly furrow.
When they signed to Warp it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it seemed at first. They were never an indie band really, and as the years went by and they shed a few members they became much more of a production-based act, more synthesized, but never less dreamy, never less spooky. Each of their Albums has a different sound, but each is worth listening to – at the centre there was always her voice, and the sense of being in some half-remembered dream.
Broadcast never seemed to get either critical acclaim or high sales figures, but I’ve always found that people I’ve met with good taste in music have tended to love them and be surprised that someone else knows them when they’re mentioned. How can a band be a cult with so many fans and so little written about them in the underground music press?
When I was living in Prague my local used to play “Come On Let’s Go” at chucking out time. The lyrics were particularly apt:

You know who to turn to now everything’s changed,
Come on lets go
Stop looking for answers in everyone’s face,
Come on let’s go
What’s the point in wasting time
On people that you’ll never know
Come on let’s go

Their last album was Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age, easily my favourite album of 2009. It’s not a commercial LP, not even by their standards, but the music on it has made more of an impression on me than anything I’ve heard for a decade or so.
At the centre of it all was Trish’s voice; clear, chilling, honest, human. I miss it, and I can’t believe we won’t hear it again. Only 42, and still making great music. The world is rubbish sometimes.
I don’t want this blog to turn into an obituaries column for my favourite musicians, it’s just that they all seem to be dying.

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