• Karis Raeburn

The Bloody Classics - Public Service Broadcasting



Public Service Broadcasting, Inform-Educate-Entertain, 2013, Test Card Recordings

Track List

  1. Inform - Educate - Entertain

  2. Spitfire

  3. Theme from PSB

  4. Signal 30

  5. Night Mail

  6. Qomolangma

  7. ROYGBIV

  8. The Now Generation

  9. Lit Up

  10. Everest

  11. Late Night Final

And now for something completely different... Defined as art rock, Public Service Broadcasting rely heavily on samples to create their sound. None of their songs have lyrics but are rather musical accompaniments to their samples. Having started as a solo project in 2009, they eventually evolved into a three-piece but were a duo when this album was made. The samples used are taken from the National Archives and the archive of the British Film


Institute. Despite being so obviously niche, Inform - Educate - Entertain reached number 21 in the chart. The pulsing electro beat on opener Inform - Educate - Entertain, the title of which refers to the original aim of the BBC, is pure dance energy. The voiceover acts like a manifesto for the band, much as the track title did for the BBC. Spitfire, which is about the famous aeroplane, takes its samples from two 1940s movies. The guitar on this has an Oasis-esque vibe. Theme from PSB focuses on the BBC again, it’s got a fun, jangly sort of quality. The thrashing guitars on Signal 30 accompany an aggressive sounding American driving safety movie sample. It’s a pairing that works really well, it seems like any other rock track. The sample used in Night Mail, though coming from the film of the same name is actually a poem, so again it seems like another perfect fit to its musical accompaniment. Qomolangma is a pure instrumental with slow and beautiful horns and a dreamy quality. ROYGBIV continues the bands favoured theme of television, this time celebrating the advent of colour television. You wouldn’t think a disco and banjo combo would work, but it does. The Now Generation seems like pure 1980s electro, the sample focuses on fashion and the track is genuinely funky. Lit Up will remind you of Kraftwerk, both the sample (the broadcaster is drunk and slurring his words) and the melody are gentle and slow paced. The music on Everest is atmospheric and feels somehow big, like the subject matter, again, it’s classic 1980s synth. Late Night Final is all slow saxophones. It’s a low key ending that transports you to a smoky music club (does anyone remember those?)

This is clearly a band who benefit from the live context of being able to show audiences the films that the samples are taken from and therefore provide a fuller experience, but even when you can only listen, it’s still a lot of fun. Having gone through a number of historical events here, their later albums were more focused on specific topics but their unique way of making music remained the same. With the goal of providing their listeners with a learning as well as a musical experience, Public Service Broadcasting are perhaps not trailblazers in terms of having other bands follow their lead, but certainly flag bearers for classic British eccentricity. While I couldn’t see myself listening to them on a regular basis, I definitely enjoyed Inform - Educate - Entertain and their longevity shows that this band are more than just a gimmick.

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