Monday, May 06, 2013

Album Review - Public Service Broadcasting: Inform Educate Entertain

In a year that has already brought us superb new music from Bowie, Suede, and ...err... OMD, and with the promise of Daft Punk yet to come, I don't think I've been more excited by an album release than that of corduroy-clad geniuses Public Service Broadcasting.

The slightly less fashionable but bang-on-the-money descendants of Paul Hardcastle, they take public information films from the archives and nail them together in such a way as to be excellent. And have they succeeded? Why, yes. Yes they have.

PSB are the insanely talented duo of J. Willgoose Esq. on guitar, banjo, things with big flashing lights on the front; and drummer Wrigglesworth who sometimes also plays things with big flashing lights on the front. Having exhausted the first Wrigglesworth, the band are now on Wrigglesworth II, and I fear for his safety. However, from what I hear coming out of my radiogram (or, measured in British Imperial, my Radio 0.04oz) the sacrifice of Wrigglesworth I was entirely worth the cost in blood and entrails.

ROYGBIV – an exploration of the arrival of colour television through over-excited American newsreels – was a fine debut that brought the delights of the banjo back into public discourse; followed up by the breakthrough War Room EP that featured the very fine Spitfire. These were just mere appetisers for an album that delights, excites, and other superlatives to complex for my tiny mind.

Despite the wonders of ROYGBIV and Spitfire, my particular favourite is the understated "Lit Up", based on the BBC's ill-fated radio transmission from the Spithead Review in 1937 where commentator Thomas Woodrooffe had enjoyed the liquid refreshments provided by friends on HMS Nelson rather too freely before taking to the microphone. The result is a delightful track, and a warning to the otherwise sober 2012 Queen's Jubilee River Pageant that was hideously ignored.

FACT! The three-note motif in Lit Up is based on the BBC World Service pre-broadcast interval signal that allowed listeners to tune into its signal. Those of us who have worked in public service broadcasting know them as "C's", complete with the unwanted apostrophe on the control panel that we could do nothing about. The rhythm was specifically designed to sound like a sung "B B C". The interval signal also comes in a second flavour: V's.

If there's one criticism to make – and it's a tiny one – it's wondering where the duo can take the project from these lofty heights. A friend likens Inform Educate Entertain's endless cascade of delights as living on birthday cake made entirely out of icing. Utterly wonderful, but there'll come a day when you just want cake. To this, I say "Pshaw!" – enjoy the wonder now, PSB know where they're heading, and it's toward a brave new world were corduroy trousers, crumpled jackets and bow ties are king.

 Inform Educate Entertain is possibly the most unique release of the year from a unique recording group. Buy, beg, borrow or steal* (5/5)

* Don't steal. Stealing is bad, m'kay?


Al said...

I endorse this. I heartily recommend their live broadcasts as well, a superb show.

Richard said...

They have been championed by RadMac for a long time now. I think they are very good and make a pleasing noise.