PSB are a highly unusual band, being based around extensive samples of public information or news footage from the past, with their latest third album Every Valley being (I suppose) a concept album about the Welsh mining industry. Which doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but they somehow transform such base materials into sonic gold.
I had previously seen them in November 2013 at the then-entitled East Village Arts Club, just four months before I started this blog, so this will be my first review of them in print.
This new album features a whole host of guest singers, including Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell and James Dean Bradfield from Manic Street Preachers, neither of whom (perhaps unsurprisingly) were not amongst the performers on the night.
I had really enjoyed seeing Jane Weaver at the Liverpool Psych Fest in November 2015 (see my review here), still shamefully the only day I have managed to make this annual festival. Since then, she has released her seventh album Modern Kosmology, perhaps an even better record than the preceding The Silver Globe, the only two of hers I own.
When I got to the venue, she had just got underway, backed by a guitarist, drummer and third man on keyboards. Sadly, the sound was far too drum-heavy for most of the set, taking away from the gently psychedelic nature of most of the songs on record.
Did You See Butterflies? from Modern Kosmology came across as just a bit too trad rock for me, with the subsequent title track from that album being nicely hypnotic, but still not as entrancing as the recorded version.
The Architect featured some great guitar work towards the end, with the set starting to come more into focus as it drew towards its close.
The final number was The Silver Globe’s I Need A Connection, probably the highlight of proceedings and the only song played that wasn’t off the last album.
I couldn’t help but feel glad I knew the songs beforehand as I was able to enjoy them as live versions of recordings I really like. Whereas, if I had come to this gig fresh, I might have been quite underwhelmed instead.
The DJ spun some excellent between-band music, including David Bowie and Talking Heads, with the last song played before PSB emerged being the rather ballsy choice of the former’s Sound And Vision, one of many classic tracks on his 1977 Low album.
Out came J. Willgoose, Esq. to kick off the title track off PSB’s current album, soon joined by multi-instrumentalist JF Abraham, drummer Wrigglesworth, Mr B on visuals, and a three-piece brass section (who came and went throughout proceedings).
The new record was raided for several tracks at the start of the set, in fact they eventually performed seven of its eleven cuts. An early highlight amongst the crowd was People Will Always Need Coal, with its now-ironic samples:
“In South Wales it’s seams over two and a half feet thick
There is still at least ten thousand million tons of the coal that made her famous
Enough for another four hundred years.”
A major clap-along erupted during the excellent Theme From PSB from 2013’s debut long-player Inform-Educate-Entertain that featured J. Willgoose, Esq. with some fine banjo work. I have a no doubt irrational hatred of clap-alongs and other forms of audience participation, but I managed to enjoy the song nonetheless!
After Signal 30, another track off the debut, this time about careless driving, Willgoose made a caustic reference to their most recent planned appearance in the city at the cancelled Hope & Glory festival (“no festival today”).
The excellent Night Mail was followed by Korolev, a tune about the Soviet rocket engineer I wasn’t familiar with as it’s not on any of their albums.
Haiki Salut, a female trio of two singers and an accordionist were introduced as “Derbyshire’s finest”, repeating their album turn on They Gave Me A Lamp.
Lisa Jên Brown also reprised her appearance on Every Valley, singing the Welsh parts of You + Me, with Willgoose taking the English part.
The set climaxed as it drew near its close, with Brown taking Tracyann Campbell’s part in Progress before perhaps my favourite track of theirs, Spitfire, off both their debut album and the preceding The War Room ep, which was my first introduction to the band.
The final song before they left the stage was Go! from The Race For Space, which generated another mass clapalong.
They soon returned, with Willgoose mentioning the ‘justice for Orgreave’ t-shirts they were selling, and linking this with the Hillsborough tragedy, to obvious approval from the crowd.
All Out off the latest album featured a killer post punk guitar line, and was followed by Gagarin which saw some excellent dancing from the brass section, and some real live spacemen on stage!
The evening ended with Everest from Inform-Educate-Entertain, leaving me and the rest of the audience well pleased.
I couldn’t pick an especially appropriate tee for tonight’s gig, deciding to honour the Welsh theme of PSB’s latest album by wearing my red Y Niwl t-shirt, that country’s finest surf instrumental combo – unless anyone can challenge that mantle! I spotted one Beatles t-shirt, and a fair few PSB ones (they were selling a good range at the back), but nothing else.
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify: