Public Service Broadcasting – 3 Men and a Banjo

Last night (13th May) I found myself at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds to see one of the most acclaimed bands of the moment; Public Service Broadcasting.

public broadcasting 2 - cultoidI really didn’t know what to expect, given that I was coming into this gig on the strength of one EP, recommended by a friend via some exposure on BBC Radio 6. That EP – The War Room – has been at the top of my playlist for several months now and offers a wholly unique listening experience. The band combines electronic sounds with historical announcements to create a stirring, cinematic soundscape providing as much social commentary as it does pulsing synth led rhythm.

I wasn’t even planning on writing a review of the show for this site, as I knew they would have to do something very special to warrant coverage on a Film and TV culture website. But then they took to the stage…

A giant vintage television set loomed from the back of the stage and all around stood staggered towers of smaller TV sets. A snowy, signal-less display adorned all the sets until the band arrived on stage to begin one of the most unique performances I have ever seen. The TVs came to life with reel after reel of archive footage from such periods as World War 2, the 1950s and stock footage of landscapes including a particularly appropriate Mount Everest during the aptly titled track….Everest!

There are 3 people on stage and it takes one of them to manage the incredible visuals as his sole responsibility. This means it is left to the other 2 to perform all the rest; and boy do they do it. Dressed in tweed suits and dicky bows they work with drums, keys, guitars, samples and even a banjo as they create one layered dreamscape of sound after another. They have their stage performance rehearsed so well that they make this mammoth task look….dare I say it…..easy. There is a great efficiency to it all; a kind of clinical undertaking that, along with their lack of vocals and use of computerised voices to talk to the audience, gives the band a Kraftwerk kind of feel.

It was obvious that the sell out crowd were in full agreement with me. You could see the combined looks of elation and awe on their faces as these 3 , fairly unassuming young men delivered ethereal walls of sound with an assured technical proficiency. Standout tracks ‘Night Mail’, ‘Spitfire’ and ‘Dig for Victory’ (which sounds like a new wave John Carpenter soundtrack) created a very notable stirring across the entire venue and served as apt examples of why this band should, and one day will be filling huge scale venues. They are made for it. Their unique performance, commitment to delivering stunning and thought provoking visuals, original sound and already great list of songs are more than enough to guarantee it.

The band’s website references that a lot of the archive footage is used in conjunction with the BFI and I hope that this is a partnership that is allowed to endure. As they move into what I’m sure will be a very bright future I would love to see more and more projects between the two. As a suggestion – get these guys on stage at the BFI Imax! Let their visuals stretch from floor to ceiling on the biggest UK screen whilst their music shakes the building’s walls! That would be a very special gig!

It’s great to see a new band that is willing to marry film and sound into a whole performance. Hopefully it will pave the way for a few more!

The band’s new album “Inform, Educate, Entertain” is available now on CD, MP3 and of course Vinyl!!!

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.

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