Here, finally, is the debut full-length from the acclaimed duo Public Service Broadcasting, who build accessible post-rocky pop instrumentals around archival samples from wartime broadcasts and public information films. The tracks remind me of a more concise, less intense Death In Vegas crossed with that Baz Luhrmann ‘Everybody’s Free...’ number and maybe a touch of (this android’s PSB of choice) the Pet Shop Boys’ more lighthearted moments - bouncy rhythms and likeably melodic tunes offset by these unsettlingly nostalgic transmissions which range from the familiar - ‘Night Mail’’s Auden sample is so iconic its inclusion seems almost audacious - to the, er, less familiar.
A particular highlight for me is the surging and skewed rock’n’roll of ‘Signal 30’, mixing scary road safety messages with a bone-cracking guitar based instrumental a la late-era Man Or Astro-Man?. In contrast ‘The Now Generation’ is largely synth based, finding a funky sweet spot in between Fourtet and earlyDepeche Mode which bursts into technicolour M83 style ‘80s overdrive towards the end. It’s all very slickly done, and from what I’ve heard about their audio-visual live spectaculars I bet they’re a riot to watch. My one concern is that after hearing an EP which was much the same formula, by the time I get to this album I’ve pretty much had my fill of the uplifting-indie-dance-instrumental-with-wartime-samples schtick, which was at its most effective in a smaller dose on their debut EP. I can’t imagine how they could possibly continue to make it work for another album, but this is pretty solid stuff, likeable and unobtrusive; good for long drives and background music when you’ve got friends over who don’t really like music. - Norman Records
Say hello to one of the most original debut albums in years. Public Service Broadcasting are quite an unusual proposition; they make a mockery of the two-piece band format, sometimes sounding as though there are five or six people in the room, when in reality it's just the two of them, both curiously named; respectively, Wrigglesworth handles the live drums and rhythms, while J. Willgoose Esq. is responsible for just about everything else. Their sound is quite a busy one, albeit without becoming overcrowded. As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth, but the PSB boys have created a sound that is taut and engaging, utilising a traditional band set-up as well as an impressive bank of samples. The driving rhythms and post-punk riffs of current single 'Signal 30' display the duo at their most powerful, racing along on a track which concerns the dangers of careless driving, its samples lifted from the 1959 film of the same name, whose graphic nature is reflected in the unhinged-sounding nature of the track, building to a searingly intense finish.
Listeners who have been keeping up will have spotted by then that the duo are fond of using the same snippets in different contexts. Every sample used in the curtain-raising title track reappears in some form as part of an entirely different track. The band have cherry-picked samples to use, so that the album forms a full narrative, taking in subjects from, well, television (on several occasions; public service broadcasting - see what they did?), to military aircraft (older song 'Spitfire' makes an appearance), to postal deliveries ('Night Mail') and even a track concerning the mountain which was previously known as Peak 15 gets a look in - fans will recognise it as last year's single 'Everest', and it packs quite a punch as the penultimate track on the album. Their concerns are broad, every bit as scattershot as another band with 'P', 'S' and 'B' as their initials - British Sea Power - and so too is their approach, their diverse debut exploring a variety of moods over its 11 tracks.
At times, the pair find themselves in unashamedly poppy form; the watertight rhythms, math-pop guitars and banjo (yes, really) on 'Theme From PSB' is an excellent combination, and its melodic sound shows that the band can write knock-out instrumental-pop songs when they put their mind to it. The focus is always on melody, though when they really focus, they can write a track as immediate as 'ROYGBIV', the second half of which is euphoric and arguably the pinnacle of the duo's output thus far. That track is the standout on an album packed full of great moments, and serves to drive home a point that will definitely bear repeating: Inform - Educate - Entertainis an extraordinary debut, accomplishing all three of its aims whilst displaying fantastic musicianship and a knack for melody other bands would do terrible things for; and Public Service Broadcasting may well be the UK's best new band. Your 2013 just won't be complete without them. -Gareth O'Malley
The credits on the debut album by London duo Public Service Broadcasting mark it out as a unique prospect: it's fairly safe to say Inform-Educate-Entertain will be the only album this year to feature guest appearances by Marie Slocombe, a temporary secretary at the BBC in the 1930s who ended up founding the BBC Sound Archive by accident, or Thomas Woodrooffe, Royal Navy lieutenant commander, author of Vantage at Sea: England's Emergence as An Oceanic Power and commentator at the Berlin Olympics.
The duo's raison d'etre is to trawl through old film archives – those of the GPO Film Unit seem to be a favourite – in search of snippets of voices to set to music. It seems a pretty arcane pursuit, but it's without precedent or in isolation. As the album plays, listeners with long memories may find themselves recalling a period in the mid-80s when it was briefly held that the dernier cri in forward-thinking rock and pop music was to overlay your song with sampled snatches of film dialogue: the era of Big Audio Dynamite's E=MC2, Paul Hardcastle's 19, and Steinski and the Mass Media's We'll Be Right Back; of Keith Le Blanc and Tackhead's experiments on the On-U Sound label, and of Colourbox, whose frantic Just Give 'Em Whisky is occasionally and presumably unconsciously evoked by Inform-Educate-Entertain, not least on Signal 30, which samples a variety of aged US road safety films over raging guitars.
On another level, it has something at least spiritually in common with both British Sea Power (there's a parallel between Public Service Broadcasting's live shows, where they perform before a bank of old TV sets showing manipulated footage from the films, and British Sea Power's performances accompanying films such as Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran or Penny Woolcock's From the Sea to the Land Beyond) and the hauntological electronica released on the GhostBox label. But while GhostBox artists largely concentrate on evoking memories of the childhood dread induced by 70s public information films or eerie old kids' TV series – giving listeners of a certain age the creeps by reminding them, as the writer Rob Young brilliantly put it, of "a country and an age that have now disappeared, but its aural and visual traces make us realise, too late, that we were once actively living there ourselves" – the music made by Public Service Broadcasting isn't creepy at all. That's partly because the voices are from an age that no one listening is likely to remember, unless Public Service Broadcasting have a cadre of nonagenarian fans, all nodding in mutual recognition at the appearance Thomas Woodrooffe, commentating on a royal inspection of the naval fleet in 1937 on the dreamlike Lit Up. But it's mostly because there's usually something strangely uplifting about the taut, Neu-inspired rock that is Public Service Broadcasting's main musical setting.
Their interest seems to be in alerting listeners to a lost Britain that certainly seems strange – "it's fairyland, the whole thing is fairyland" repeats an audibly drunk Woodrooffe, over and over again – but never sinister.
Or, at least, on the surface. Most of the voices sampled here come from propaganda films. However artful and evocative they seem today, they weren't really films about Britain so much as films about controlling people. At its least interesting, Inform-Educate-Entertain seems to avoid addressing that fact in favour of simply wallowing in a kind of fusty Keep Calm and Carry On nostalgia, a sensation heightened when pseudonymous frontman J Willgoose reaches for a banjo instead of his keyboard. But the moments when you fear it's veering perilously close to a bunting-strewn whimsy are outweighed by those where a disquieting confusion decends. If you find yourself stirred by Spitfire – and it does sound pretty thrilling as it hurtles towards its climax, its motorik rhythm layered with a mesh of electronics and guitars that gradually drown out the dialogue from The First of the Few – are you being manipulated as readily as the original audiences of that film, designed to fill cinema-goers with nationalistic pride in the wake of the Battle of Britain? On other occasions, the voices are recontextualised. The closing Late Night Final samples What a Life!, a 1948 film intended to dispel the gloom of postwar austerity. The track doesn't bother with the film's resolution, only the complaints of its protagonist – "things have never been as bad as this … have you seen the headlines?" – drifting over mournful saxophones and synths and an endlessly repeating two-note guitar riff. "It can't go on, you know," protests one voice: it could be making a point about Public Service Broadcasting themselves. More a concept than a band, it's a little hard to see where they can go from here without repeating themselves. For now, though, Inform-Educate-Entertain is a flawed but fascinating curiosity. - Alexis Petridis
After wowing fans up and down the country with their live transmissions, repeatedly destroying the competition on 6Music’s ‘Rebel Playlist’ and creating a compelling and heartwrenching EP, the time has finally come for the men of Public Service Broadcasting to step forth with their debut long player. And what an album Inform – Educate – Entertain is, full of familiar as well as reworked favourites from their live shows as well as a smattering of new tracks for our enjoyment.
Should you be new to the world of messrs J. Willgoose, Esq and Wrigglesworth then you are in for a treat. Their modus operandi is simple, “Teaching the lessons of the past through the music of the future”, and their method is to use the medium of old public information films and archive footage layered over driving rhythms and pulsating atmospheric electronics. The samples are provided largely by the BFI, as well as Canal+ and other assorted sources, but to focus simply on them is like having only the starter of a multi-course, Michelin starred chef prepared gourmet meal. It tastes delicious but there is so much more to enjoy and delight in.
Their real skill is in how they use the music and the melody to complement and enhance the narrative of the samples. This was particularly evident in last year’s exemplary The War Room EP, which wove a single narrative thread across its entirety, perfectly encapsulating the whole gamut of emotions that war brings, as well as the personal devastation it leaves behind.
There is no single thread here, but each track has been spun and entwined with its own individual soundtrack. “Signal 30” brilliantly evokes the sense of speed and drama, hurtling along at a breakneck pace with the guitars revving and growling engine like, an undercurrent of barely contained aggression bubbling away. “Everest” is ebullient, uplifting and triumphant. The swell of brass at the tracks culmination brings the feeling of achievement and success to life and instils a sense of warmth and euphoria in the listener while “The Now Generation” is much more playful and light-hearted. Like you wish The Clothes Show theme tune had actually been.
This ability to convey such a range of emotion allows PSB to avoid entirely any accusation of not offering variety and relying too heavily on a gimmick. There is variety here in spades, so much so that the samples actually augment the music, not the other way round. Naval Officer Thomas Woodrooffe’s infamous drunken account of the Spithead Review of 1937 could easily be played for laughs and dismissed but instead, on “Lit Up”, it forms a delicate and evocative accompaniment to a moment of wondrous and beautiful calm. ”It’s fairyland, the whole fleet is in fairyland”, he rambles as we are treated to floating electronics and church bells, very much the aural equivalent of the fairy lamps he can see all around him.
On an album as strong as Inform – Educate – Entertain it is hard to pick standout tracks, but you will have to go far to find a better album opener than the title track, a medley of the forthcoming delights that will have fans grinning from ear to ear, while the W.H. Auden featuring “Night Mail” is just sublime.
Longstanding fans could possibly grumble that there is not enough new material here but that would be the most minor of quibbles. Instead the focus should be on the undeniable quality of the music presented, the emotions that it is able to stir within and the simple fact that you will be listening to this for a long time to come. It’s a fantastic accomplishment and one that does everything it says it will, and then some. - alphabetbands.wordpress.com/
Usually, there’s no greater turn off than music that feels patriotic, which is the reason why Muse’s official anthem for the Olympics was so alarming (okay, one of the reasons). But The War Room EP by experimental electronic duo Public Service Broadcasting evoked a spirit of national pride and resilience that chimed in perfectly with the bunting-decked mood of London 2012, while also being genuinely innovative. Granted rare access to the British Film Institute’s archive of wartime propaganda, J Willgoose Esq and Wrigglesworth — the Brylcreemed moustaches are implicit — layered 1940s radio broadcasts over sample-heavy music that flows hypnotically from Krautrock to expansive, energetic post-rock. The concept initially seems like the equivalent of a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, but these tracks become more moving and evocative with every listen. The picture of the Blitz on “London Can Take It,” in particular, is soul-stirring stuff. - www.emusic.com/
Here's something you don't get every day. Public Service Broadcasting have been granted access to British propaganda films from the World War 2 era, and they've sampled them, slapped echo on them, and whacked then in the middle of a digitally groovy post rock epic! Zoiks Scooby.
Luckily this two piece are smart and propulsive enough to give this idea legs. 'If War Should Come' shows off their dance chops, but also feeds emotionally off the narrative of the samples - as we're first told: "No one in this country wants war!" to a tentative and nervous build up, then blown away by a climactic guitar hailstorm, which pulls away to reveal the melancholy revelation; "I have to tell you now, this country is at war."
From here we're thrown into the atmosphere of the Blitz ("Soon the nightly battle of London will be on") to the broadly sci-fi breakbeats of 'London Can Take It', while 'Spitfire' feels almost like Orbital with glam rock hooks. Later, 'Waltz For George' depicts the weary soldiers staggering away from the beaches and boats from whence they fought. I'm not usually one for history lessons, but this EP is a dramatic juxtaposition - and it's genuinely moving. Propaganda or not, this has been a successful mission. - Cindy Suzuki