Graham Reid | | 1 min read
When a perilous space walk barely rates a mention on this week's nightly news, PSB's remarkable album reminds us of when progress, science and discovery meant the world stood on a thrilling threshold of promise.
But it doesn't do it through finger-in-ear retro-folk nostalgia.
This canny British duo use relentlessly exciting electro-beats, astutely chosen samples from newsreel and film archives alongside searing electric guitar and banjo, then structure it like a suite (overture/wistful coda) which evokes Futurist passion and the wonder that gripped the world when Everest was conquered or a Spitfire ruled the skies over Blighty (“Hello, hunter leader . . .”).
The steam'n'steel-wheel momentum of Night Mail samples from the classic Thirties film of the same name; ROYGBIV brings alive the excitement at the launch of colour television; Lit Up samples the famously tipsy BBC presenter trying to conjure up for listeners what the British navy looked like in 1937 when illuminated (he was pulled off air); the romantic/New Romantic Now Generation is Kraftwerk-blip about fashion-forward nonsense (“the news is . . . pleats”); and Signal 30's racetrack spin has the surging visceral punch and momentum of the Headless Chickens' Gaskrankenstation or NRA's Bruce McLaren.
The Futurist Manifesto of 1909 by the Italian poet Marinetti ("a bit of a dandy and something of a fool" according to the late art critic Robert Hughes) urged that we embrace progress, the motor car, speed and industry and yet while PSB has elements of that excitement, there is also a rare pathos at work.
What did the superior airpower of the Sptifire lead to? Just better ways to kill. What happened after Everest was conquered? Package tours to the top. And the excitement of overnight mail deliveries by train which brought letters and cards from all over the United Kingdom to home far away? No one writes letters anymore.
PSB manage that delicate balancing act between taking the past as a reference point for the unknown future, and wrap it up in terrific songs.
Yes, this album is that good. And comes under a truth-in-packaging title.
Incidentally the lovely vinyl version comes with a coupon for a free download of the album. Elsewhere thoroughly approves of that.