Reinventing The (Pit) Wheel

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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…..

 

 

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First Listen: Public Service Broadcasting “The Race for Space”

Second albums are notoriously difficult for bands who’ve emerged, blinking in to the spotlight. It seems that Public Service Broadcasting have passed this test with ease.

Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I’ve been ludicrously excited about The Race for Space ever since it was announced. Brilliantly, the good people at NPR have been allowed to stream it for the world to listen to before it lands in record stores (you know, those shops that used to sell records and CDs)….that stream is available here….

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I love Public Service Broadcasting, and so should you

I’ve been lucky enough, over the years, to go to a great many gigs. As a result, I’ve seen an awful lot of support bands. Some have been brilliant (Reel Big Fish, King Prawn) some have been awful (Vendetta Red, I’m looking at you) and plenty have been anonymous (too many to mention) I don’t think any have quite intrigued me as Public Service Broadcasting, supporting the Manics at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

A two piece, lead guitarist wearing a bow tie, with an enormous television looming over them onstage. At the time, the consensus with my friends at the show was that this – if nothing else – was different.

We weren’t sure about the refusal to talk to the audience except through a synthesiser and the lack of lyrics in the normal sense. What we all agreed on was that they had music you could move to, and as a boy-child, any band who have a song based on (in my opinion) the finest fighter plane ever built well, they’re certainly worth digging after.

They really use quite a simple formula; find an old film, and soundtrack parts of it.

It could be a film about car safety (Signal 30, which of course would need an awesome, galloping riff), the old overnight mail trains with a poem by WH Auden (accompanied by an award winning video, Night Mail), colour television (Roygbiv) or the conquering of Everest (Everest, surprisingly enough)

It’s not all about making a racket either. Their second EP, The War Room, features the wonderful “Waltz for George” a tribute to one of their relatives.

Their newest project, Race for Space, is due out next year, and I think lead single, “Gargarin” is the funkiest thing they’ve put out yet….

 

Obviously, the album launch is going to be at the National Space Centre in Leicester, following on from their shows at the RAF Museum in Hendon. It’s going to be quite some show for those lucky enough to be there.