What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘the modern world’? You might groan in despair at the current state of global affairs. Perhaps you’re perplexed by our times in which social interaction is framed by the shareable; a seemingly impenetrable stat-fest of quantifiable appreciation. Or maybe you cringe every time you hear that irredeemable corporate buzzword of ‘innovation’. You can lament the loss of a more innocent age, or surrender to the inevitable tide.
Some however, separate modernity and the modern and take a more positive view, preferring to optimistically focus on that heavily-laden concept we call ‘progress’. It is this idea that the band Public Service Broadcasting choose to celebrate on their soon-to-be-released single of the same name. Featuring the vocals of Glaswegian twee pop group, Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell, the song is a mission statement ahead of the duo’s forthcoming second studio album.
At a time when regressive politics abound and science funding is consistently below target, Public Service Broadcasting offer a refreshing outlook on the steady march towards societal betterment. They provide a counterpoint amongst the prevailing wind of apocalyptic rhetoric and self-righteous gloom.
The above song is a landmark, in that it is the first Public Service Broadcasting tune to feature original vocals. Most of their previous releases have used archive material from the BBC and other sources to give their ideas voice, which they then turn into compelling instrumentals, usually celebrating technology or human achievement in some way.
On Wednesday 12 April, the band will be performing the entirety of their last album The Race for Space, which takes the listener on a journey through the Space Race between the USA and USSR from an impartial perspective that looks at either side of the competition, and captures the spirit behind it in quite a beautiful fashion. The date of the concert is significant because it falls on Yuri’s night, or Gagarin day, and marks the anniversary of the launch of Vostok 1, the first manned space mission. Coincidentally, it is also the anniversary of the first space shuttle launch in 1981, which was planned to blast off on the tenth, but left two days late because of technical delays.
This is a track from said album The Race for Space, which came out in 2015, called ‘Go!’
‘Go!’ serves as a wholesome endorsement of what human beings can achieve if they put their minds to it. There is no real equivalent of such heroics going on today. However, I don’t really perceive anything approaching an unhealthy nostalgia here. While it was undeniably a Golden Era of exploration, by presenting a two-sided story over the course of the album, the band seek to distance themselves from the competitive aspect of the Race. Personally, I find their message uplifting, motivating and moving.
Below is a link to a track from the band’s debut EP, entitled ‘Spitfire’. Its focus is closer to home, although further back in time, historically speaking.
This is just a snapshot into the intriguing world of Public Service Broadcasting. Tickets are still available for their upcoming concert at Usher Hall this Wednesday 12 April, where they will be playing The Race for Space album in full accompanied by string quintet and the National Youth Choir of Scotland, as well as their usual wind ensemble as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.