Review: Public Service Broadcasting (Cambridge Corn Exchange)
Penny Cracknell sees Public Service Broadcasting live
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Public Service Broadcasting may be an acquired taste that appeals mostly to 40 year olds (I feel slightly out of place), but this doesn’t stop them from filling venues and selling thousands of albums all across the UK, Europe and even across to America. J. Willgoose, Esq and Wigglesworth – along with the multitude of musicians that they work with – are booking bigger venues as them go, including the O2 Academy Brixton and the Roundhouse, and are currently touring for their album ‘The Race for Space’, which even charted.
Two albums in, they’ve already expressed that they’re not afraid to try something different from what people expect from them, which is pretty unique already. What’s most notable about their music is their use of old public service broadcasting messages, which they take from various archives. Yet, on the song ‘Valentina’, they actually use very little of this, instead the song featured ‘Smoke Faries’ (who also joined them on their The Race for Space UK & Ireland tour). The song sounded weird next to the rest of their music, and at first I was unsure about it, but after a few listens, I realized that it’s just different. These guys certainly aren’t going to be put into any boxes when it comes to style.
When I chatted with Willgoose – who was rocking his trademark corduroy trousers – it was pretty clear that what inspires the music comes from a variety of sources. The first taste of music for Willgoose, like most of us, was whatever our parents played for us, and he described himself as having a very 80s introduction to music, with names such as Pet Shop Boys and Nik Kershaw (his song ‘The Riddle’ being noted as inspiring the snare drums at the beginning of Gagarin, the first single from The Race for Space) coming up. And when it comes to the broadcasting messages that they use, anything that’s not modern seemed to be what they go for, with their current picks being from the 70s and earlier.
From past experience of seeing them, they always put on a good show. Last time I saw them I especially notes their creative use of lighting which really enhanced the experience. But, when I saw them on the 25th of April, it was on another level. They had their own Sputnik on the stage, and it lit up! I was very impressed, they clearly know how to keep people interested.
Something that I’ve not really noticed before is how the set list of the show is put together, but I did actually notice it after this show. They played Sputnik first, which gave them an excuse to put their own Sputnik up on stage, and then mixed the set with old songs and new songs, balancing the most popular ones with the not-so-popular ones, which meant that everyone got their favourite played. But they didn’t play Gagarin, their most recent and popular song, last, they came back to encore with it, then played Tomorrow and then Everest – which was probably the biggest hit of their first album. I’m sure most people didn’t expect them not to finish with Gagarin.
Despite them being very secretive about new music, I’m still very excited for it. They preferred focusing completely on one topic for the whole album, like in The Race for Space, rather than exploring a wider range, like in Inform – Educate – Entertain. I’m also looking forward to seeing who else they’ll be collaborating with – another thing that Willgoose was very secretive about – and seeing what their archive sifting has brought to the song lyrics.