The Arts Desk | 29 June 2017

CD: Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

PSB’s third veers too close towards infotainment for comfort

Guy Oddy

Every Valley is Public Service Broadcasting’s second studio album since 2013’s Inform – Educate – Entertain, and like its predecessors, it’s a nostalgic trip to the not-too-recent past with an electronica-heavy backing and a bag full of samples culled from the spoken word library of the British Film Institute.

While J Willgoose Esq and Wrigglesworth may have been inspired by steam-powered railways and the space race on previous discs, Every Valley sees the London duo take on the death of the coal industry in South Wales and its social impact as their source material. If this terminology sounds all a bit dry and academic, it reflects the ambience of the album, which ultimately comes across as worthy “infotainment” with tunes rather than Public Service Broadcasting’s usual electronica-trance-krautrock flavours.

For the first few tracks, however, Every Valley holds no surprises for long-time listeners of Public Service Broadcasting’s own particular take on the concept album idea. But as things unfold, J Willgoose Esq and Wrigglesworth begin to introduce some changes to their sound by bringing in guest vocalists like Tracyanne Campbell, Lisa Jen Brown and Manic Street Preacher’s James Dean Bradfield. While this works on the poppy Goldfrapp-like “Progress” and the folkie bilingual Welsh-English duet “You + Me”, “Turn No More” does seem something of a lost opportunity. Instead of stepping outside his comfort zone and trying something different, Bradfield rather uninspiringly performs a pretty straight-forward rock number that just makes his hosts sound like his own band.

While Every Valley can be quite an endearing hymn to the idea of “community” there is a sense that it also romanticises a job that was dirty, dangerous and, in more cases than seem possible, life-shortening or life-ending for those at the (literal) coalface. It similarly pays no attention to the environmental fall-out from the coal industry and consequently feels slightly unsatisfying in its failure to tell more than part of this particular story.


The Arts Desk