I must admit, Public Service Broadcasting had me going for a moment there. After their debut album Inform – Educate – Entertain wonderfully demonstrated that Willgoose, Wrigglesworth and Abraham could do exactly that with samples from archive footage and public information films and some cracking tunes, the more thematically linked The Race for Space disappointed me, as it just didn’t grab my attention as much.
There was no reason why it shouldn’t have either. After all, I like history, am a great believer in science, and space exploration has always captured my imagination. However, despite arguably being a more coherent album than it’s predecessor, there was something about The Race for Space which failed to connect with me in the same way as it’s predecessor, outside of a couple of tracks.
When Every Valley was announced, I must admit, I took notice. The history of the Welsh mining industry may not be the most obvious choice for a concept album, but it was unarguably a ballsy move, as I’m guessing it’s not a subject that many of Public Service Broadcasting’s fans would know a vast amount about.
As an album, Every Valley sticks to Public Service Broadcasting’s original credo of Inform-Educate-Entertain. Full of evocative soundbites from miners, their wives, children and other found sound footage, the music compliments rather than fights against the subject matter, being by turn claustrophobic, romantic, and mighty as each track demands. It’s also damn catchy in places as well, and the well chosen guest vocalists Tracyanne Campbell and James Dean Bradfield making memorable contributions to the album. Public Service Broadcasting even resist the temptation to smother the album in Welsh male voice choirs, resisting that most Welsh of musical forms until the final track, and the moment it would have maximum impact.
While I respected what Public Service Broadcasting managed to the do with The Race for Space, it is Every Valley which has convinced me that I need to keep an ear out for anything they release in future. Their approach of ‘concept album as documentary’ is working well for them, and I’m intrigued as to what subject they may tackle on their next album.