Once again, the nice people at NPR have released Public Service Broadcasting’s new album a little early to give us all a sneak peak.
It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was lauding the release of the marvellous Race for Space , and yet here we are, two years later with a new album of a more earthly sort.
Once again, the question of how does a band built around something of a gimmick keep it going, keep it fresh and keep pushing the boundaries?
The answer is found buried in the middle of Every Valley. Whilst first single Progress had impressed, it didn’t offer anything especially new; it’s relaxed tone & female vocals were reminiscent of Valentina even if this offered a new take on the world. But it’s the triumvirate of Turn No More (featuring the Manics’ James Dean Bradfield), They Gave Me A Lamp (featuring Haiku Salut) and particularly the gorgeous You & Me, a duet between Willgoose (!) and Lisa Jen Brown that they really spread their wings.
Thematically, Every Valley offers something similar to Race for Space; it’s a clear narrative, but unlike the hopeful tones of Tomorrow, Every Valley leaves us with the haunting, glorious tones of the last remnants of the pit community, a male voice choir singing the standard Take Me Home, a song about a life that’s now gone; leaving far behind the “Lords of the coalface….the Kings of the underworld” that Richard Burton saw in his youth.
Unlike their second long player, the triumphant middle is missing; there’s none of the emotional highs of Go or The Other Side; this is a story of decline – first single Progress marks that slide, with Go To The Road and the big sludgy riff of All Out detailing the beginnings of the losing battle fought by the miners to keep their jobs and their dignity.
That’s not to say that, musically, this loses anything to Race For Space. It’s an absolute wonder of an album, with more brass, more guitar, more vocal. This is a band which absolutely trusts in the intelligence of their listeners, and is all the better for it.
Once again, we’re left asking where do Public Service Broadcasting go from here? Who knows, but it’s going to be a hell of journey…..