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Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley

  • Published in Albums

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.


Public Service Broadcasting - Live At Brixton

After missing Public Service Broadcasting twice in Glasgow, once in Edinburgh, and after opting not to go to their show at the National Space Centre, I was getting disappointed with my track record seeing this band, a band whose music I was in awe at. When their largest headline date to date was announced in London, I was in Barcelona for a few months studying, and whilst I did look up flights to attend sense eventually prevailed.

Watching and listening to Live At Brixton therefore helps to reduce my sadness whilst waiting for their return to Glasgow, although as a service announcement of my own I should probably let you know that the previous two CD/DVD live albums I enjoyed were Green Day’s Bullet In A Bible and Linkin Park’s Live In Texas, so you know what to expect from this review.

In its entirety, the seventeen-track set played that night spans the band’s career so far, drawing tracks from both albums and their original war-themed EP. Opening like the most recent album The Race For Space, Kennedy’s inspiring words fade in to the bleep of Sputnik, as a large model of that first satellite graces centre stage for the whole performance with dazzling lights. If you’ve seen the band live, you’ll know about their usual audio-visual stage arrangement and novel method of crowd interaction, so I’ll leave that for your enjoyment later, rather than spoiling the whole thing.

Next is a run of older tracks, featuring the incendiary ‘Signal 30’ and soaring ‘Night Mail’, both obvious crowd favourites as the “drop” in both kicks them into some vigorous dancing. Existing as a duo usually, the wealth of additional personnel involved in making this show the breathtaking spectacle it is is impressive. From the usual brass accompaniment to backing singers to string arrangements… all crammed onto the Brixton Academy stage for maximum musical impact.

After some shy words from one half of the band – J. Willgoose, Esq. – the crowd is introduced to the “voice of Public Service Broadcasting”, and then a triumphant end to the set begins… with five tracks left. The enthralling ‘The Other Side’ kicks things off, with the closing duo of ‘Gagarin’ and ‘Everest’ seeing the emergence of shiny jacket and some killer dance moves.

Confetti cannons bring proceedings to a close, and this show is a deserved triumph for the band whose two albums have been generously received by fans and critics alike. A euphoric night of celebration if ever there was one, immortalised forever in a live album, to be enjoy and relived by fans – and even the band if they were so inclined – time and time again. Public Service Broadcasting’s music and performances are a spectacle, and this show is no exception, with the air of celebration giving these recordings an edge over their original, record-forming counterparts.

Live at Brixton is available from iTunes and Amazon.

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