2013 Albums of the Year #3: Public Service Broadcasting – Inform – Educate – Entertain

19 Dec

PSB_Album Art

It should come as no surprise at all to anyone who reads Alphabet Bands, even semi-regularly, to see that the debut album by Public Service Broadcasting should feature highly on our list of favourites from 2013. After topping our EP of the Year list in 2012 with The War Room, we, like many many others, were eagerly and excitedly awaiting the arrival of Inform – Educate – Entertain. We were not disappointed.

We’ve spoken at length about how skilfully and artfully they use the music and the melody to complement and enhance the narrative of the samples from old public information films and archive footage, but it is worth stating again. It is far too easy to get lost in the perceived gimmick of Public Service Broadcasting and to our mind that misses the point. The samples are critical of course, but the beauty and enjoyment comes from how they are used and woven into complimentary sounds to convey a narrative, emotion, excitement and energy.

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.

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.

As wonderful as the samples are and as perfectly chosen and utilised as they have been, attention should be on the undeniable quality of the music presented, the emotions that it is able to stir within and the simple fact that, because of those factors, 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.

’Inform – Educate – Entertain’ is out on Test Card Recordings and can be bought digitally here or on CD/Vinyl here.


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