HAVE YOU EVER read an album review and thought, “That sounds good”, and then when you heard the music, been completely nonplussed? As a reviewer, I try not to read reviews before I listen to albums, in an attempt not to have my view sullied by others. When I auditioned the first album by English duo Public Service Broadcasting, my verdict was in the negative, so I was shocked to learn shortly afterwards that they were accumulating rave reviews from normally fairly reliable quarters.
Their second album was no more convincing. To quote my own Metro review: “…lightweight, thin and unimaginative backing tracks, over which they used historic dialogue cribbed from the British Film Institute.” And: “The spoken word samples are a rich in rhetoric, the accompanying music – mostly tamely chugging and bleeping electronica with the odd guitar interjection – is spectacularly dull.”
So after merely two discs, Public Service Broadcasting now offer up a double live CD, with accompanying DVD, Live At Brixton. It’s a pity the DVD element wasn’t supplied to reviewers, because it at least might have provided some context, and the visuals might just have enhanced the mostly dire musical content.
Apart from crowd noise, it’s hard to think of any reason for audio-only discs of a Public Service Broadcasting concert, because it pretty much replicates the studio discs, apart from ramping up the grandeur of it all. Most of the time, this music just chugs along like it’s on autopilot, which makes the splendour of the occasional sonic ejaculation that much more exciting. Other rewards are thin on the ground.
No, choosing historic dialogue of space missions and the like, and putting pallid grooves to the words, isn’t a highly imaginative pastime, but I’m starting to see the appeal. It’s as if they’ve taken the ponderous conceptual approach of the Alan Parsons Project, but instead of fine session musicians and top-notch engineering, they’ve combined it with the limp aesthetics of a Coldplay gig. As my Peppa Pig-obsessed toddler would say: “YUCK!” GARY STEEL
[Note: Gary Steel reserves the right to reappraise and alter his star ratings up or down at any time].