The year is 1957. Paul Anka is Number One, Harold Macmillan has recently set up shop at 10 Downing Street and the mercury is dropping ever lower on the Cold War thermometer. Most importantly, however, a metal ball named Sputnik is hurtled into orbit, launching with it a new human obsession: Space. While never losing its dark mystique, public fascination slowly turned to the greater computing power in their toothbrush than in the tin cans of yesteryear.
Fear not, however, because Captains Wrigglesworth and Willgoose are here to remind you of those interstellar wonders through their sampling mastery. Back to their usual tricks, Public Service Broadcasting have been raiding the British Film Institute’s archives to let you, the lucky listener, come with them on an audible time-warp back to the fifties… and beyond (to circa 1972). Whereas 2013’s ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain’ sampled a scattering of the 20th century’s finest moments with the express intention of letting you know the well-dressed duo’s M.O., ‘The Race for Space’ has a somewhat more specific time and place.
The result is a rocket-fuelled silver screen roller coaster. It shouldn’t be a surprise that film-audio samples sound cinematic, but this is the all-encompassing IMAX experience. From the inspiring speeches and heavenly choral arrangements of the title track to the ethereal floating-in-my-tin-can melodies of ‘Valentina’, ‘The Race for Space’ has more highs, lows and cliffhangers than Gravity and Interstellar combined. The band’s use of instrumentation hasn’t really changed course in the last two years, but each sample is perfectly placed and so potent that the guitars etc serve only to emphasise those fuzzy sepia audio nuggets. With a USP as good as theirs, Public Service Broadcasting always had a whiff of one-trick pony about their signature tweed. But by focusing their attentions on just one small but intoxicating part of the age of extremes that was the 20th century, they, like sputnik did for space exploration, are pushing the boundaries of what rock music can be.