Less rock, more information may be the motto as the 21st century music soars and floats, ably supported by predominantly plummy English accents from clips that belong to a bygone age.
The duo’s debut album, Inform – Educate – Entertain, on Test Card recordings, is a sprightly set of tracks, relying heavily on samples, electronics and traditional instruments such as guitars and drums. And a banjo.
One of their earlier singles, Spitfire, is an inspiring burst of shimmering guitars and beats that mingle deftly with samples from the war-based film The First of The Few in which our dandy heroes dish out a jolly good beating to the boche. Kicking off with a burst of sound from the famed aeroplane, it initially features dialogue about how birds fly, before the guitars go a notch higher and the bird metamorphises into the winged weapon that’s most associated with victory in Europe. Nevertheless, any notion that this might by a suitable anthem for the United Kingdom Independence Party is dispensed by the realisation that undercutting these spiffing words of bravery is the influence of Krautrock, particularly Neu! and Kraftwerk.
As their name suggests, there’s a focus on using samples from public service broadcasts of another era, such as Night Mail, a Royal Mail-commissioned education film from 1936, and the Conquest of Everest from the same year Hillary knocked the bastard off. The past meets the present you could say, and PSB follow a fine tradition trawled in the 1980s by Big Audio Dynamite and Barmy Army/ Tackhead, while rap has long incorporated external voices. But, equally, PSB don’t allow the clips to overwhelm the listener and dominate the track. Instead they provide an extra dimension, but also provide an aural link to a time when such broadcasts were essentially propaganda, crude attempts to control the people, or at least encourage them to appreciate the best that Britain could possibly provide – and the necessity of defending it. It isn’t all about Blighty, ROYGBIV contains a banjo, and a voice from the other side of the pond, but somehow it just doesn’t feel right.
Keep Calm and Carry On indeed.
Listen to one half of PBS, J.Willgoose on Radio New Zealand: