Public Service Broadcasting: Berlin – live review
Public Service Broadcasting
26 April 2014
They made one of Louder Than War’s albums of the year in 2013 and our man in Berlin, Barry Lanigan, caught Public Service Broadcasting live a few weeks ago.
I first heard South London-based Public Service Broadcasting on The Spinning Man Radio Podcast, hosted by The Shend from post-punk heroes the Cravats. He played their single Spitfire. I, like other people who had tuned into that show, played the track multiple times and it was interesting to see music lovers of all ages and interests championing that song and others for weeks after.
Tonight PSB are at Privatclub in the Kreuzberg district., a Turkish, punk and alternative haven full of bars, clubs, venues, bottle shops and affordable restaurants. But for the bright red capital ‘P’ outside the red brick venue, one might simply pass it off as an old administration building. Inside is a very intimate, low-lit and modern club. There will be no support act and PSB are expected on around 9, a hell of a lot earlier than these guys are used to I’m sure. The stage looks immaculately set up with live drum kit, drum pads, guitars, synths and of course a large screen for visuals. Thanks to the band and their tour manager, tonight I’m on the guest list. Out of my way, peasants.
This band really has a clear and clever agenda and great ideas right down to the PSB logo mystifyingly replacing the Apple logo on J. Willgoose Esq’s laptop. Live concerts are referred to as live transmissions. Their slogan is simple – Inform -Educate -Entertain. Given that some of the band’s BBC archive visuals hark British resilience during World War II, tonight might be a history lesson for some of the German public.
What was an almost empty club is suddenly full of punters, many appropriately bespectacled in nerdy goggles. Frontman J snakes through the crowd from the back and takes to the stage where he is soon joined by partner in crime and all-round drum factory, Wrigglesworth. Bizarrely, there is not so much as a whoop or applause for the duo. Is my previous praise of the German audience about to be challenged? The air raid horn is sounded, the movie begins and the audience is teleported to the 1940’s with a twenty first century soundtrack. It’s banjo riddled electro opener ‘London Can Take It’, so Berlin will have to.
The band goes through their set clinically and the audience, given it was an early start, are well into it. It’s difficult not to be really. If not engrossed with the black and white archive footage or the pulsating beats and chimes that in parts could rip up any of the Techno clubs down the road, there is no denying the musicianship and songwriting craftwork at play here. Interestingly the band never speaks but through a pre-set electronic voice which performs the trivial greetings and mid-song banter with amazing tongue-in-cheek wit. The Germans get it too, except for one quip where I was the sole guffawer. Not bad for a computer.
Signal 30, from their debut album Inform – Educate – Entertain, demonstrates the band’s ease to slip into more primal punk rock elements. Night Mail boasts how the British postal service of the time sent 500 million letters per year. The resilience of Londoners during war time and the might of British industry is a reoccurring theme in the samples and visuals and I wonder if there is genuine British pride on display. The Now Generation is a rowdy disco delicacy that gets some lenses foggy at the front row. ROYGBIV lulls everyone into a false sense of acidic dreamland until the roar of a war plane shakes the Berlin walls as they crank out Spitfire, a masterpiece of modern music. A subtle switch to colour visuals for final song Everest, a beautiful pop melody with stabby drums and reassuring samples. It’s safe to say PSB have conquered Berlin tonight.
The band are currently touring Europe and due to appear at this years Glastonbury festival. Considering they were Louder Than War’s New Band of the Day back in late 2012, they’ve come a long way since. Let’s hope it continues.
All words by Barry Lanigan. More from Barry on Louder Than War here.