Trish Keenan RIP

I’d say Broadcast were one of my favourite bands, only my relationship with them would make other acts pray not to show up on my Facebook profile. I first heard them in ’96, when The Book Lovers EP was on rotation on the Mark And Lard graveyard shift. Its combination of insistent, brain-tugging harpsichord riff and Trish Keenan’s intoxicatingly distant vocals pulled at me. I hummed it. I sang it. I taped it off the radio.

I felt its strange, airless arrogance as a reproach and an appeal: I was 15, library dwelling and puffed-up with self-doubt. “Oh read the sign/Above the door/You’re unlike anyone,” sang Trish in her curious voice – a classic English pop voice, McColl-ish, naturally warm but technically cool, sliding in just underneath the notes where no one could catch her. The vintage electronica sound of the band’s instruments gave the impression of being someone’s nostalgia, but not quite mine. A dreamworld for the isolated and sickly, which was where I – sulking it out in bed after a long, sapping bout with glandular fever – felt like I lived.

I rewound and replayed the five minute patch of that C90. (It was part of an end-of-show four song segue, with the Divine Comedy’s Booklovers, Dexys’ Burn It Down, and something else about authors, I forget.) But the EP never came my way out in a Midlands market town, and by the time the band’s first album proper came out in 2000, I was doing something else. Listening to New York bands and waiting for escape, I think: English pastoral electronica drifted into the list of things-I-used-to-do, along with going to the library and checking out all the Kafka novels.

And yet, they stayed with me. I would sing The Book Lovers to myself in a half-remembered assemblage of aloof words and drifting notes. It was in me. Eventually, I was shifted to order a copy of Work And Non Work, which I expected to be a bunch of acceptable sounds cushioning the song I couldn’t shake off. It wasn’t. It was all just as needlingly lovely, with Trish’s heart-weary voice winding across the melodies – the voice of someone who knew more about dejection than you could hope to have beaten out of you. “I remember your excitement/Choosing pictures for your wall/And now you’ve seen them all so often/You hardly see them anymore,” she sighs in Lights Out, peeling down the Fight Club poster from my student wall with her languorous tongue and leaving it in papery shreds on the floor.

Maybe it was that feeling of always being ahead and looking back that made me fail to seek out new Broadcast. They already sounded like the echoes of The Stone Tape – archaic, other-worldly. After Trish’s painfully early death last Firday, I read the tributes to their late improvisational gigs, and the reviews of their last album (the Hammer-ishly titled Broadcast And The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age), and I wonder what I was listening to that was more important than discovering more about this eerie, intoxicating band with the singer whose voice spoke sympathy and whose manner held you far away. But I love them, and since Friday I have cursed myself for not recognising their life in the fragile present. She was special. I missed her when she was alive, and I miss suddenly her now.

2 thoughts on “Trish Keenan RIP

  1. With all the news out here on the ‘Interwebs’, it is always nice to bump into a journo/blogger with soul. Thanks Sarah enjoy your writing (the Guardian is lucky)

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