Live Review

Public Service Broadcasting, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Glasgow

They look and sound like escapees from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop hiding out in a Bletchley bunker.

Photo by Michael Gallacher
The irony of a band combining Krautrock’s metronomic rhythms with British and American wartime propaganda films is likely lost on the YouTube generation. That this improbable combination of elements works is down to the ingenuity of a London-based two-piece with a heavy corduroy element to their wardrobe. Public Service Broadcasting look and sound like escapees from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop hiding out in a Bletchley bunker.

Styling themselves J. Willgoose Esq. (clip-on bow tie and heavy spectacles; electronics and stringed instruments) and Wrigglesworth (cords, tie and glassless frames; drums) their live show is an intriguing audiovisual display which revels in the precision required to fuse film clips and dialogue with live instrumentation.

Orchestra samples matched with on screen footage fuel ‘Introduction (Let Yourself Go)’, which for starters is more rocky than one might expect. Self referential, a little bit silly and demonstrating a seemingly endless supply of material to be sampled - think Big Audio Dynamite or Mr Scruff locked in the BFI archive.

Drawn here by the radio-favoured ‘The War Room’ EP, an almost full Sleazy’s crowd is not surprised when the air raid sirens sound for ‘London Can Take It’. Live drums and banjo combine with the serious tones of World War II morale booster footage, the driving rhythm increasing the urgency of the message.

Willgoose, a boffin obscured by a vintage TV screen housing a computer, operates the machines and all communication is done via samples. Wrigglesworth is stage-left applying himself to the drums and offering the occasional thumbs up.

Just as the propaganda samples threaten to become repetitive, all those authoritative voices sound oddly alike, they drop in some Mad Men vibes with 1960s clips and a more electro sounding song about fashion. They stick closely to their concept though, ‘Theme From PSB’ incorporates banjo in the style of Lemon Jelly, along with more stiff upper lip dialogue. Bully Beef Big Beat, if you will.

‘If War Should Come’ has one reaching for the sandbags and black out curtains. Making light of this dark period of history does seem rather flippant, but another track from ‘The War Room’, ‘Spitfire’ (sampling Leslie Howard in ‘The First Of The Few’) is such a direct and arresting piece, that it feels like a fine tribute in the spirit of lost heroes.

‘ROYGBIV’, which draws heavily on films introducing colour television, shows its influences on its sleeve; it even shares a title with a Boards of Canada track. New single and set closer ‘Everest’ draws on Orbital and Stereolab’s distinctive styles to create a song about the first men to climb the mountain, “because it was there”.

Public Service Broadcasting’s mission, according to their biography, is to entertain, educate and inform; to teach “the lessons of the past through the music of the future”. Mission accomplished.

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