It’s been a little while since I’ve made it to one of The Broadcasts’ gigs myself, after I persuaded my sister to come and see them in 2014 as a ‘birthday treat’ – supposedly for her, as the gig was on her actual birthday, but it was an early birthday treat for me too, and all of the Nemeth family. The gig was at Hobo’s in Bridgend – a venue they returned to in April this year to open the show for hometown band Fire Fences – and we were introduced to two other fantastic bands: the (sadly now disbanded) Remembering August, and the impressive vocals of a very young (at the time) Alex Stacey.
Fast-forward to a few months ago, and The Broadcasts’ social media buzzing with news of a debut album release. It says something about a band when I can buy an album without needing to have listened to any of the tracks, but it must be a level-up to pre-order one. I didn’t even hesitate – I was just perhaps a little shocked that there hadn’t been an album before, but also really pleased that I hadn’t missed the chance to board this ship.
This is an album, in many senses of the word. There’s a Broadcasts-feel woven through it – and frankly it would be odd if this weren’t the case – but the music grows as the band have grown, track by track, as if you are flicking through a child’s photo album. ‘Down The Line’ bounces into life, with not-too-heavy rockiness and luscious harmonies. The second track, ironically, is a little more down-the-line; pleasantly ticking along, with a nice message, catchy structure and attention-grabbing hooks. It is also the track that features on the band’s first lyric video, an art form which does seem to be a sign of ‘The Future’.
We chill out a little before we get to the real surprise – track five – though the track before it gives us an acoustic-guitar-intro hint of what’s to come. ‘The Road Goes On’ deserves the invention of a new genre; I’d call it prog country, but that name was apparently already coined in the 1970s to mean something slightly different: I was going for prog-rock-esque form (partly because it’s nearly seven minutes long), but with a lead-in of middle-of-the-road gentle guitar picking and harmonica, and a lead-out of atmospheric lead guitar and drums, in epic proportions. If Fleetwood Mac’s studio tapes of ‘The Chain’ had been accidentally erased by a freak electromagnetic pulse forty years ago, which also wiped most of the band’s memory of the song and set fire to their paper notes, then they decided to write a song for The Broadcasts that paid tribute to something amazing that never was, this might be how it would turn out.
Despite my alternate-universe ramblings, though, it’s the final track that is the jewel in the crown for me. As I told the band, I was expecting to be taken on a substantial journey by the time I got halfway through. However, I wasn’t expecting to cry. Again, the soulful vocals of the track before it give a slight indication, but nothing – apart from reading this review, perhaps – can prepare you for the emotional effect of the dissonant minor spread-chord of the piano. In some ways, it’s the first thing that stands out as incongruous about the album, but I don’t mean that in a bad way at all: it pulls you out of the state you had settled into, whatever that was, however you got there. You find yourself looking up towards a stage that isn’t there, at least it wasn’t there, but it is now. You hang on every word. You can’t stop yourself. And how aptly titled is this last track – ‘What We’ve Become’ – in our metaphorical photo album, we’ve seen them being born, we’ve smiled as they’ve played as children, and we’ve followed them with bated breath through their teenage years. They are adults now.
So, what is it about this Bandicoot track that makes it ‘everything I need’? At the time of writing, it’s had 310 listens. At least twenty of those are me (it’s actually becoming a bit of a problem…)
I’ve often said that I enjoy music that makes me feel like I want to conduct it. I don’t mean I wish to change anything, but that everything seems to be placed so carefully, just where I would have wanted it put, as if the orchestration itself is being treated like an instrument played with feeling. That’s what’s happening here. I’d say that’s the X factor…but I don’t want to confuse things with the TV show.
Orchestration isn’t about regularising the life out of something. You can write notes on a page if you like, but it’s not mandatory. The magic happens when you’re all contributing to the same score, to make one that becomes far more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t have to be on a piece of paper. The way it builds, the way it weaves, the way it layers. If this track isn’t an epitome, it’s pretty bloomin’ close.