PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING
Every Valley (Inertia)
There are many, many voices on this album: tutored ones, cultured ones, natural ones, raw ones, massed ones. They are angry, resigned, perplexed, enquiring, sorrowful and melodious.
Some of them were recorded between the wars, some in the dark-yet-unbowed days of the 1970s, some during and after the devastating days of the mid-1980s. And some are singing: songs of their fathers and mothers, songs created for this project, songs which tell the other part of the story the voices have begun.
And the story is long and old and still fresh: the story of the coal country of South Wales which gave and took lives, fuelled a country’s rise and bore the brunt of its decline and then its restructuring – or, if you are less of a fan of the Thatcher model, destruction.
Public Service Broadcasting, four British musicians who look like third year undergrads at a second-tier university, and operate in public with highly unlikely names such as J. Willgoose, Esq and Mr B, live up to that band name with their third album.
After the wholly satisfying examination of the 1960s USA v USSR battle for the stars in 2015’s The Race For Space, this is public history and national storytelling done with elan. A genuine service because it is ever so enjoyable.
Once again they’ve sampled voices from public records, historical artefacts and broadcast, adding this time freshly recorded interviews and several guest singers, including Tracyanne Campbell of Glasgow’s Camera Obscura, and at the end, a men’s choir from the valleys.
Around these, they’ve built electronic, rock, folk, pop and almost religious songs which, with contributions from Derbyshire folk/electronic/classical ensemble Haiku Salut, do as much heavy lifting, story-wise, as the voices.
There’s liquid, almost African funk in People Will Always Need Coal and brassy momentum in the soulful pop of They Gave Me A Lamp; languid, post-rock in Mother Of The Village and gentle British folk in You Me; synth pop in Progress (which faintly echoes the joyous leap of Go, one of the great moments from The Race For Space); ‘80s jazz funk grooves in Go To The Road and The Pit; assertive, powerful rock in All Out; and more classic rock shapes, not unlike Welshmen Manic Street Preachers, in Turn No More, which has the Manics frontman James Dean Bradfield on lead vocals.
Songs make this work, as they would have no matter how good the stories were, and the songs here are strong. There aren’t as many outright exciting moments as were found on The Race For Space but there are more emotionally connecting ones.
This feels grounded in every valley, but understandable in any suburban house.