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.
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