Bands are defined by their albums, their hits, their image, and their web presence… And PSB work very, very hard on this. Said by some, including the Guardian’s Alex Petridis, to be more of a concept than a band, PSB are instead the musical gift that keeps on giving.
With over one hundred live transmissions in the bag, PSB’s sound is a blend of dance / indie / electronic / krautrock music, working in perfect harmony with carefully edited videos of public information films, archive footage and propaganda material. Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms accommodates their new stage design, which includes a large radio antenna, plenty of vintage TV sets and two huge video projection screens. Corduroyed Wrigglesworth bangs the drums and J. Willgoose, Esq. sports a country gentleman’s jacket, with natty bow tie, while variously playing guitars, a banjo, keyboards, and tinkering with a MacBook. And they just about find space for new band member, Mr B., another bespectacled boffin, with command of big screen and TV visuals.
Before proceedings started, the packed-out crowd was reminded of the dangers of “Wafty Mobile Phone Camera Video Disorder”, or WMPCVD to those in the know. The irony of PSB issuing a public service broadcast of their own was not lost. All that was missing was an announcement for us to “KEEP CALM AND ENJOY”.
Opening with London Can Take It, taken from the War Room EP, PSB immediately show how much they have developed since they played Nottingham’s Bodega back in May. Complementing the audio-visuals is a brilliant attention to atmosphere though the addition of their own lighting team. Their use of innovative lighting gives them much more control – subtle, but noticeable. Now Generation, from LP Inform-Educate-Entertain, is there for the late 1960s fashionistas, and PSB then gives us a “real ride” with the blisteringly fast Signal 30, accompanied by US road safety footage. The gig bursts into light with the white antenna and red radio waves illuminating throughout Theme from PSB, an upbeat and uplifting tune featuring Willgoose plucking on his banjo. Latest single, Night Mail, is sandwiched between two new tracks inspired by Dutch film of the Elfstendentocht, or Eleven Cities Tour – a 200 kilometre ice-skating tour held along a route of frozen canals, rivers and lakes in the north of the country. With early 1960s Lowlands footage, Dutch commentary and a darker, more repetitive rhythm, these songs are evocative of Kraftwerk’s Trans Europa Express. The main set draws to a close with another War Room EP track, If War Should Come, the hugely popular and dramatic Spitfire, and a gently played nautical homage to the BBC, Lit Up.
The crowd brought PSB back for two final tracks. ROYGBIV, a celebration of the introduction of colour television, espousing the commonly held view, at that time, that technology and invention was going to bring about “a pretty good world”. And the show was brought to a climatic end with Everest, a tribute to Edmund Hillary’s team that conquered the world’s highest peak in 1953. Indeed, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as “two very small men cutting steps in the world” could be a metaphor for PSB too.
Public Service Broadcasting captures that often-elusive combination of the quirkiness of old (the visuals), with the best of the new (the sound). As J. Willgoose, Esq. might have said, in his finest electronic voice, “Thank you, Nottingham, that was really, really, really, rather good.” And Nottingham might have answered, “We liked that, a lot. See you next time…”.
By Shaun Gordon