Music review: Public Service Broadcasting, Village Underground, London
Thursday 23 May 2013
London’s East End makes a fitting location for a duo obsessed with 1940s heroics, as on their War Room EP, much of which they play tonight.
Spotlights rake bare brick walls as if hunting the Luftwaffe while Public Service Broadcasting play over the measured commentary of a Blitz documentary in "London Can Take It". You can understand why an 80-year-old would throw up on hearing the opening sirens, as the bespectacled and bow-tied musician who styles himself J Willgoose Esq claims.
As the mastermind behind the project, Willgoose has dug into archives of newsreels and propaganda films to create an eccentric concept album of evocative samples and driving dance-rock, Inform Educate Entertain, that this month made the Top 30. With stacks of old TVs showing the original footage, his accompanying audio-visual show emphasises the latter command.
Looking like a more studious Matt Smith in his Doctor Who get-up, Willgoose marshals a motley array of sounds. As well as snatches of clipped monologues, he communicates via RP voice samples: “Simmer down” and “very good, Village Underground” are favourites, accompanied by a jolly thumbs-up.
Willgoose juggles electronic pulses, guitar and banjolele, while bandmate Wrigglesworth provides the percussive foundation, anything from lolloping trip hop to muscular, Chemical Brothers breakbeats. This eccentric mix of vintage speech and cutting-edge tunes is weirdly compelling, partly because PSB have gone for such dramatic stories. Often they stick to remixing the original films, as with the iconic documentary Night Mail, retaining its original propulsion that suits an epic New Order-style backing.
Their stand-out number, ‘Spitfire’, sees the duo underscore snippets from war movie The First Of The Few with thrilling Krautrock guitars and beats similar to Primal Scream’s motorik excursions, a cunning means of updating the footage and deflating any nationalist sentiment. On the quieter ‘If War Should Come’ they distil a feeling of menacing disquiet, though the similarly paced ‘Digging for Victory’ remains aimless sketching.
As well as this nostalgic
bent, the pair also evince fascination with that retro optimism in the future,
whether that is excitement about technology or human achievement. Here, PSB
create an Anglicised take on Kraftwerk’s paeans to futures past. That is best
expressed in ‘Everest’, with images of struggling climbers matched by chiming
guitar before the pair slyly reveal a five-piece brass section whose fanfare
provides an understated finale for a performance that plays with our history
while treating it with respect.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 Ginger Pride festival to take place next summer, organisers say 'time of bullying gingers is over'
- 5 Facebook rainbow profile pictures likely being tracked by social network
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
Guillaume Tell gang-rape scene causes uproar at the Royal Opera House
Glastonbury 2015: Shocking scenes of rubbish left strewn across campsite as clean-up begins
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS