Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

3WA 2018 #7: Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space

“Well space is there, and we’re going to climb it.”

What is it?

The Race For Space is Public Service Broadcasting’s second full album release, part of a sequence of records centered on a specific arc of historical events. Over the course of nine songs they hit a number of both high and low points along the path of what’s now called “the space race.”

How does it sound?

Everyone’s tuning in to the bleep bleep of the sampler mix:

Why this pick?

When it comes right down to it, I picked this one because “Gagarin” and “Go!” are the best possible introductions to what this band is about: Great musical grooves and audio clips from archival film footage married together in an unexpected but often entertaining way. Their first full album is titled Inform-Educate-Entertain and they do, in fact, deliver on that mandate here.

Basically, if you like this one? Lucky you! There’s the previous album, there’s the superb War Room EP, and there’s the latest album, Every Valley.

Which songs are the highlights?

“Gagarin” gets you grooving and takes up residence in your head for days afterward. “Go!” is almost as upbeat, though part of what makes it compelling is that it’s basically about the Apollo 11 landing itself. I can’t help but get caught up in that moment, every time. “E.V.A.” is nearly as groove-inducing as “Gagarin,” and “The Other Side” is another nice piece, mellower than the others but still plenty enjoyable.

Which songs don’t work so well?

It seems unfair to say that the title track doesn’t work, as it’s really just the JFK “we choose to go to the moon” speech with some backing music meant to serve as a short lead-in to the album proper. And then there’s “Fire in the Cockpit,” which is a somber piece for a tragic moment in the history of space flight. Neither is bad, but you probably won’t cue them up very often either.

“Valentina” is… nice, I guess? Not my speed or style, really.

Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?

The clear runner-up is the War Room EP: Four nearly perfect songs followed by one short unmemorable piece. I recommend it most highly if you dig anything you hear from The Race For Space. Heck, though, if you dig this record you should just buy all the rest of their stuff anyway.

Any final thoughts?

I’m amused that one of my longest-running favorite bands and one of my newest favorites share an acronym. It means, among other things, that I can make an “hour of PSB” smart playlist in MediaMonkey and get good songs by two different musicians.

I considered putting this back to back with Fundamental to make a brief PSB-a-thon, but decided against it. There will be plenty enough opportunities for shenanigans later this year…

1 Comment

  1. Wonderduck

    I’m obviously pleased to see PSB show up on here. I knew it would, I could identify it on your mastermix to tease the Music 3WA after all. Knowing I pointed you towards them, at least in part, just makes it even better.

    My folks gave this CD to me; they wanted to know what I wanted for Christmas, and I said TRFS. I sent them the amazon page for it, and included links to “Go!” and “Sputnik” as examples of the music.

    Now, let me explain something about my folks. Ph.Duck listens to classical music almost exclusively. I’m am reasonably sure he believes the electric guitar to be the work of the devil, and the synthesizer the Devil itself. RN.hen (ret.), his wife, is slightly more open-minded, but is still quite limited in her “modern” musical tastes. On those rare occasions that I’ve attempted to introduce them to some tune or another, the lack of enthusiasm has been so strong that it makes me think my enjoyment of them is bad and I should be ashamed.

    They loved PSB. RN.hen(ret.) had a good point when she said that they got a “bonus” from having memories of many of these events from when they occurred. While somewhere there’s a photograph of a 15-month old Wonderduck watching the Moon landing, that’s not the same as being a real person. But the point is, these two who seemingly don’t like any music made before 1900 or so, thought that TRFS was good fun.

    Of all the new music I heard in 2017, PSB was undeniably the best of the bunch. I’m not as taken with War Room as you, but it’s still very listenable. Every Valley is outstanding.

    They’ve appeared on NPR quite a few times: a Tiny Desk concert, and at least two other live performances. Track ’em down, they’re a good way to be introduced to the band if you’re new, and fun if you’re already a fan.

    5/5 dancing spacemen.

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