Summer’s guilty pleasure comes from Southampton duo Public Service Broadcasting, the rare ACL band to appear on the pop charts and to receive widespread mainstream attention. The duo comes across as an odd blend of Coldcut and iLiKETRAiNS, in that they adore archival dialogue samples and British history. The fact that such sampling was popular in the early 80s gives the music a a pleasingly retro sound, but the sources hearken back even further, to WWII and the training films of the British archives.
Inform – Educate – Entertain provides listeners with a fanciful image of an vibrant and unsullied England. A narrative voice is always present, typically comforting although occasionally dour “Late Night Final”) drunk (“Lit Up”) or agitated (“Signal 30”). This narrative is comprised of many voices woven into a web, or as PSB might prefer to call it, a rainbow (“Roygbiv”). The album includes paeans to fashion (“The Now Generation”), early exploration (“Everest”), the postal service (“Night Mail”) and of course, public broadcasting “Theme from PSB”). The spectre of war, so prominent on the duo’s debut EP, The War Room, remains, but is now integrated; the EP’s standout track, “Spitfire”, is included in this collection.
Those who are only familiar with PSB’s earlier EPs may be pleasantly surprised to encounter a new electronic sheen in their work. It’s likely that the EP/single remixes influenced the duo ~ the best of these being the Tape Op remix of “If War Should Come” (featuring additional trumpets) and the Iron Butterflies remix of “Everest” (hearkening back to the Buddha Bar sound). Sadly not included (but free for download): B-side “New Dimensions in Sound”, which samples a home stereo advert.
Chirpy new single “Theme from PSB” includes a copious serving of banjo, a happy instrument that should sound breezy on British airwaves throughout a hot August. The instrument also adds color to new track “Roygbiv”, which speaks rhapsodically about television in such a way as to imply that the whole world was once in black-and-white, a la “Pleasantville”. “Who knows what miracles are yet to come?” asks a narrator, communicating a sense of wonder that pairs well with the album’s pleasant nostalgia. The drums of “Night Mail” recall Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”, while a guitar riff in “The Now Generation” tips its hat to Prince’s “Kiss”. Post-rock is present as well, especially on “Lit Up” and “Qomolangma”. If Lemon Jelly had remained active, they might sound like this today: part whimsy, part sample, part performance. The concert experience promises to be even better: a multi-media experience, incorporating vintage film footage. Guilty pleasure as it may be, Inform – Educate – Entertain does exactly what its title promises; even better, it cheers and uplifts. (Richard Allen)
Fold’s Technicolour Remix of “Theme from PSB” is available 12 August!