Beginning with a war-themed EP (The War Room), Public Service Broadcasting's debut record (Inform - Educate - Entertain) served as something of a showcase of their skill, ambition and intent, before their second record (The Race For Space) doubled down and focused once again on a singular topic. Now onto their third studio album, Every Valley inverts that gaze outwards from our planet to beneath its surface, but whilst the coal mines of Wales are the subject matter the inescapable human thread of our endeavours is an unchanged centrepiece.
Like its predecessor this is a record that weaves a tale of adversity at its core, although this battle is more intimate, and the introduction of guest vocalists and special interview recordings help to highlight this in a small way. As with the band's back catalogue generally, captivating and atmospheric soundscapes are married with samples to create enthralling compositions, a formula which has propelled them to #4 on the UK Album Charts on this occasion.
Therefore, overall the record is as majestic as the landscapes it represents, but is also undeniably intimate in its capturing of the times it is attempting to familiarise us with, and the societal parallels with now do not go unnoticed. As an album, unlike The Race For Space, it follows a chronological path detailing the rise and fall of the Welsh mining industry (see the graphics included in the packaging for more details), and at the very least affirms the outfit's "geek" stature in terms of research and accuracy if not just musicianship.
The opening and title track helps to set the scene and provide a small amount of historical and musical context, whilst the contrast of 'The Pit' and 'People Will Always Need Coal' sets the loom of the former's industrial drone against the jaunty pace, optimism and unfortunate dramatic irony of the latter. 'Progress' and 'Go To The Road' lead up to the ferocity and discontentment of 'All Out' and the strike action which is portrays, the emotional and musical kick which follows that comment about the police is undeniably one of the record's most memorable moments.
From there the record is solemn, and objectively not a wonderfully fun listen, but that's obviously the whole point as it mirrors the anguish and dejected nature following the strike's end. But whilst the distortion pedal and upbeat melodies are put back in their box for the remainder, the tracks are beautifully emotive. On 'Turn No More' James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers sings the words of a poem by Idris Davies, sharing the same topics at heart, and 'They Gave Me A Lamp' hits a jubilant note courtesy of Haiku Salut. 'You + Me' is a charming bilingual duet, 'Mother Of The Village' is a solemn moment of reflection, and 'Take Me Home' is a triumphant and fitting end to the story which has be regaled in startling musical fashion.
Through meticulous craft and composition Public Service Broadcasting have curated a fitting and relevant representation of the rise and fall of the industry they've chosen to investigate. They've certainly achieved the ethos set out in the debut record's title as a pivotal part of the UK's history is presented with testimonials and engaging beats. Having moulded the "album no-one asked for" into a Top 10 record, all that remains to discuss is where the band's scope will be focused next and to wait in anticipation, believing in progress.
Every Valley is available now from iTunes and Amazon.