Public Service Broadcasting: Kendal – live review

PBS_AllyPally_DK_Final-7Public Service Broadcasting
Kendal, The Brewery Arts Centre
7th March 2013

Public Service Broadcasting offer an eclectic mix of strings, piano, electronica and clips from public information films, documentaries and propaganda footage. Sound confusing? Daniel Orr caught their show in Kendal and here’s his verdict.

THOSE who gathered expectantly at the Lake District’s beautiful Brewery Arts Centre to watch Public Service Broadcasting witnessed something truly special. I, for one, was genuinely astounded by what I saw and heard as PSB took the audience on a journey through sound and time. If you’ve not heard of this dynamic duo before, here’s the lowdown – multi-instrumentalist J. Willgoose Esq. came up with the idea of putting old film footage to music.

Willgoose told me how it all came about: “I was listening to a Radio 4 programme about the release of some old films. They talked about this old film from 1945, which had the rhyme Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases.It was quite a funny little film and I decided to make a song from it.”

You can watch footage from the Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases campaign films here and here.

Willgoose was granted exclusive access to the British Film Institute’s exhaustive collection “The BFI were right behind my idea and were very supportive,” he added.

Willgoose, who counts Radiohead as his biggest influence, unearthed propaganda material, public information and war films from days of yore. He then set about putting them to good use in a series of groove-ridden modern-day pop symphonies, enlisting the help of drummer Wrigglesworth along the way.

“You can do what you want with the films, which is great,” added J.

The fruits of their labour were soon picked up by BBC Radio 6 Music and the music press, with EP The War Room, featuring samples of films from World War II, making waves online.
“I have been blown away by the response,” said J. “It seems like a relatively niche thing to be doing.”


They also delved into the Prelinger Archives, an American equivalent of the BFI, with new single Signal 30 using samples taken from a US film about dangerous driving.

This brings us right up to date as they undertake their first nationwide tour, which they kicked off at Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre. What followed was a gig I will never forget – showcasing the duo’s penchant for inventive, intelligent and moving music. A vintage television took centre stage as it blasted out the films foraged by Willgoose, flanked by two projector screens either side. Without microphones, they communicated to the audience through the use of humorous pre-recorded thank yous – spoken in the kind of received pronunciation once standard at the BBC – which Willgoose activated between songs, drawing many an appreciative laugh. Willgoose, resplendent in corduroy, alternated between guitar, banjo, keyboard and Theremin as PSB gave a lesson in how to keep a crowd engaged and entertained.

Their set list, including tracks such as Spitfire, Dig and London Can Take It, was equal parts danceable and thought-provoking, with the music itself pitched somewhere between the aforementioned Radiohead, The Orb and Primal Scream. And just when I thought the smile on my face couldn’t get any wider, they encored with the breathtaking Everest, featuring extracts from the 1953 feature-length documentary, the Conquest of Everest.

I left the room stunned, almost in a daze, at what I had just experienced. Those who were there with me no doubt felt the same. I will be eager to buy PSB’s debut album, Inform Educate Entertain, which is out on May 6 and is described by J as “a mission statement”.

“It shows the broad range of what we are interested in and what kind of music we want to make,” he added.

Make sure you look out for them on the festival circuit this year – they will return to the Lake District for July’s Kendal Calling festival, alongside headliners Primal Scream, The Charlatans and Basement Jaxx.

You can find out more about Public Service Broadcasting on their website and on Facebook, You Tube, Soundcloud and Twitter.

All words by Daniel Orr, more work by Daniel Orr on Louder Than War can be found here.

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  1. Some excellent research into the origins of the band and the various sources of their films. A cross between Radiohead, The Orb and Primal Scream? I think not. For a review of their Exeter gig you could take a look here for my take on PSB.

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