Public Service Broadcasting – The Race for Space

Race for SpaceIn his rousing 1962 speech, John F. Kennedy said, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard." This famous speech is backed up by choral singing stirring enough to complement the words on the opening track of Public Service Broadcasting's second album, The Race for Space. It also to some extent sums up Public Service Broadcasting's situation. In case you’re not familiar with the duo, all the words in their music are made up of archive material from a variety of sources. In this sense they’ve made a rod for their own back, in that all their songs need to have some kind of historical setting to go with the archive footage. However, do they actually choose to do this not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard?

On their early EPs, such as The War Room, the duo stuck to one theme for footage to sample throughout the record, and their music felt cohesive. Yet to do this on a full long player was a very daunting mission and thus on their first album, 2013's Inform Educate Entertain, everything from mountaineering to fashion is covered. While the songs’ instrumentation is wonderful, the record itself feels like an inconsistent package. With The Race for Space, the duo have very much narrowed their focus, as all the songs are set between 1957 and 1972. They capture the drama of the battle between the Soviets and the Americans to make the moon their own.

The result is an album that immediately feels more consistent than Inform Educate Entertain. Once the consistency of the tone for the record has been established, you’re able to focus on the music the duo set this period in history to. With the music, they've also succeeded: they perfectly capture the emotions of such a tense historical period.  Early in the album, the joyous funk of "Gargarin", which celebrates the Russian people's happiness at sending an astronaut into space for the first time, is followed by the sombre "Fire in the Cockpit", which chronicles the death of three astronauts during testing for Apollo 1. This shows the vast variety of emotions experience by all those involved in this period of history, and is aptly captured. Elsewhere on the album, "The Other Side" is another example of strained emotions being subtly, yet wonderfully, captured.

This might all sound a bit too serious. If you're not a fan of history or physics though, don't be put off. This is an album that you can take as seriously as you want to: you can get immersed in the history if you want, but equally if you just want some wonderful varied music (from the funk of "Gargarin" to the driving guitars of "Go!"), it provides that as well. In this sense, it is an album, which is as serious as the time it soundtracks, yet also as triumphant as that period ultimately was as well.

Release: 23rd February 2015, Test Card Recordings

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