With their combination of vintage vocal samples, the nerdish image of stage personas Wrigglesworth and J Willgoose Esq and simply fantastic music, Public Service Broadcasting’s Inform-Educate-Entertain was one of the albums of 2013, but also one that felt as if might define the band in one hit. As unique as it was, more of the same would surely just diminish their so-far significant returns. Perish the thought for, while their follow-up assembles the same components, the duo have pushed on into a brave new world.
From the opening use of the words of John F Kennedy, The Race For Space establishes a narrative that gives their sound a new dimension. Jumping from the USA to the USSR and back again, it paints a picture of a world staring both up at the stars and down the barrel of a gun. If anything the music takes more of a backseat than before but it’s perhaps understandable when the source material is so evocative and – in the case of the Apollo 1 tragedy detailing ‘Fire In The Cockpit’ – dramatic. There’s joy in the gloriously funky ‘Gagarin’, beauty in ‘Valentina’ (featuring a guest spot from Smoke Fairies on suitably heavenly vocals) and the manic rush of the moon landing itself on the superb ‘Go!’. Most effecting of all is ‘The Other Side’, a lengthy re-telling of Apollo 8’s trip to the dark side of the moon that will have you on the edge of your seat the first time you hear it before leaving you punching the air at the triumph of the human spirit.
To encompass such a momentous period in human history into one record – and a short one at that – may have seemed like an act of high folly but, like their forebears, Public Service Broadcasting have chosen this path not because it is easy, but because it is hard. The results are stellar.