“Star Wars has a lot to answer for,” smiled J Willgoose Esq, musical centrifuge of Public Service Broadcasting, in the pre-show Q&A with comedian Helen Keen – a strange curio at a live concert which was probably induced by this show falling within the programme of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.
Public Service Broadcasting ****
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Yet he was speaking for a generation as he articulated the link between George Lucas’ imagination and the fevered interest in the competitive space programme of the Cold War era. Second album The Race For Space was released in 2015, and it chronicled the excitement, drama and tragedy of both the US and Soviet programmes through archive sound footage and a diverse, sprawling soundtrack. Performed here in full for apparently the final time, the efficient but sometimes pallidly referential sound of the album was augmented by strings from Mr McFall’s Chamber, the 12-piece National Youth Choir of Scotland and the group’s own all-dancing brass quintet. This felt not so much like another tour date as a unique experience.
Across nine tracks from the album and nine from elsewhere in their catalogue, the band (drummer Wrigglesworth is the only other core member) combined dense, clubby electronic beats on the slow-building Sputnik, brassy funk on Gagarin, and lively, elegiac indie-pop songwriting on Go!.Late in the show they revealed Progress, from this summer’s third album Every Valley, a shift below ground to look at the political disenfranchisement of forgotten Welsh mining communities; its “I believe in progress” mantra offering a striking counterpoint between dreams of the stars and grounded reality.