Following their well-received The War Room EP last year, Public Service Broadcasting have recently released their debut album Inform – Educate – Entertain. Where most bands take samples from old or rare records and turn them into something new, Public Service Broadcasting use voice clippings from public information films and create new music themselves. This is a formula which could easily fall over as a gimmick or a disjointed mess. Fortunately, PSB are gifted enough to weld the two together seamlessly.
The War Room EP
Their second EP (a previous release, the imaginatively titled EP One was released in 2010) is a five-song affair focused entirely on World War II. PSB have taken clips from BFI coverage of news and propaganda originally broadcast during the war and is at turns haunting, inspiring, and patriotic. You can hear the whole thing free on their website.
If War Should Come starts the EP with a warning about the dangers facing the public and the music manages to quickly instill a feeling of wariness and fear – a perfect aural metaphor for being on the verge of something awful happening. The first time I heard the last line in this song, it gave me chills. This powerful emotional response remains through the next two tracks. London Can Take It fills you with pride in the strength and courage of your fellow man, no matter how obnoxious you may usually find them; Spitfire is a hugely inspirational tale of the invention of said aircraft and is rightfully their most well-known track today.
The last two tracks slow the pace and focus more on the concentrated effort needed to survive a seemingly endless war in Dig For Victory, while Waltz For George is a sombre reflection on the true cost of war and is incredibly moving. The EP is full of pride for those who fought in the war and showcases how everyone had a part to play. This is a sublime piece of art as well as some beautiful music and is hugely deserving of your time and money.
Inform – Educate – Entertain
Where The War Room has a very strong, unifying theme, Inform – Educate – Entertain is much freer and has a lot more space to explore. This exploration is itself the major theme of the album, choosing to recreate the wonder of new technologies and trends from yesteryear such as the postal service in Night Mail and even public service broadcasting itself in Theme From PSB. This first full-length release is a lovely collection of almost ‘mini-Beta Band’ tracks in some places and a more grown-up but still humorous Lemon Jelly in others. More musical than The War Room, Inform – Educate – Entertain is a spacious, but tightly produced album which feels much lighter and more listenable.
Lead single Signal 30 is a angry, raucous piece of music which soundtracks almost comedic samples from a shock-film shown to dangerous drivers since the sixties. It’s massively enjoyable and a stunning example of things to come. Night Mail’s sampling from the film of the same name also works spectacularly well, primarily because the words were written by W H Auden. As such, this is the only track to have rhyming couplets and this blends with PSB’s rhythms to great success.
This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.
Qomolangma is a short instrumental interlude (and the Tibetan name for Mount Everest). A peaceful shadow counterpart to later track Everest, Qomolangma could be the mystique of living near to such an impressive natural landscape before Everest itself is conquered later on. Between these events we have the invention of colour television in poppy, celebratory ROYGBIV; and fashion-centric The Now Generation, which contains an excellent sample concerning news of the future (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it.)
The last few tracks slow the tempo and reveal Lit Up, which feels fantastically like a long-lost Lemon Jelly song and lastly there’s Late Night Final which samples the 1949 film What A Life!, a comedic view of postwar austerity. Late Night Final itself feels less comedic and much darker than the film, but could arguably be hinting at PSB’s desire to try something new with their basic concept. Quite what they’ll do next I’ve no idea, and that somehow feels fitting for an album about the exciting possibilities the future holds. I hope Public Service Broadcasting’s future is as refreshing and engaging as this album. If it is, that’s good reason to be excited.