nfortunately, the most notable observation regarding Broadcast’s Haha Sound is that it sounds remarkably like the group’s first full-length, The Noise Made by People. Thematically and musically, the album is essentially a retread of The Noise Made by People with a few added diversions that seem little more than attempts to dissuade criticisms of self-plagiarism. Haha Sound’s music is always competent, and often worthy of Broadcast’s debut album, but it’s disconcerting to see a band repeat a simple formula with such devotion.
The Noise Made by People was hardly exceptional, even if it offered its share of excellent songs, simply because it entirely lacked any sort of originality or innovation. Even setting aside the obvious Stereolab comparisons that have surely greeted Broadcast since day one, everything on either Broadcast full-length has been done before, and chances are, it has been done with more style, distinction, and complexity. Moreover, genuine emotion is impossible to find on either release, as everything is simplified into (albeit lovely) sing-songy vocals and typically French keyboards (despite the band’s origins in the UK).
As for the quality of Haha Sound’s material, most of the songs are about on par with those on The Noise Made by People, if slightly worse. Assuredly, there are a few gems. The lead single, “Pendulum”, is the only exceptionally good track on the album (and Broadcast’s best to date), an invigorating display of whirry keyboards that greatly benefits from uncharacteristically energetic drumming. “Pendulum” finds the band’s formula firmly in place, but there is excitement and vitality that rarely appears on Haha Sound (or The Noise Made by People), perhaps for the natural reason that any formula seldom hits its stride, and with a pop-oriented group, primarily does on singles.
“Before We Begin”, which presents Broadcast at its most artificially French, is a graceful piece of twee pop wrapped in faux-strings and supported by a lounge-y arrangement of keyboards and drums. “Ominous Cloud” shines primarily as a result of Trisha Keenan’s sublime vocals, which carefully emote, “Oh, I’ve got to find a place/ Be myself and dare to face/ The ominous clouds/ (But not now, not now, not now)” over a captivating swirl of keyboards and bass.
Most of the remaining songs are similar to the above three tracks, but not as good. Almost everything is pleasing, but that isn’t much of an accomplishment with this sort of recipe. However, there a few deviations from the band’s common method, as I mentioned before, and one of them happens to be quite good. The closer, “Hawk”, is a surprisingly effective, even beautiful Loveless rip-off. Obviously, one band after another has been mimicking MBV for twelve years now, and writing the great lost track from Loveless is neither a particularly welcome affair nor a unique one, but it’s shocking what a fitting and outstanding closer “Hawk” is.
The album’s detours are very refreshing, and often quite rewarding (although a couple – see “Black Umbrellas” – border on pointless), but they don’t change the overall tone of the album. Haha Sound remains a second edition of The Noise Made by People, even when considering its occasional differences, which will hopefully solidify into something real by the band’s next release. Admittedly, Broadcast might not want this, and fans might not either. The group has delivered two albums worth of lovely electronic pop songs, and most people probably have little to no complaints about this. Haha Sound is an adequate follow-up to The Noise Made by People, and if you loved that album, you’ll love this one.
Reviewed by: Kareem Estefan
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01