Additional July Album Review – Declan McKenna and Public Service Broadcasting

We published a July album review last weekend and forgot two of our favourite albums of the month - so here is our “early August” review.

Declan McKenna is a good looking 18 year old who won the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent award aged 16. Don’t you just hate him already? But you shouldn’t. I approached So What Do You Think About The Car? with some degree of cynicism, but as soon as the opener Humungous gets into its swing, with gorgeous tune and soaring Beach Boys-like multitracked vocal harmonies, that turned to admiration for a real talent. An hour later I’m wondering whether he might just be a new Weller, (Ray) Davies or Costello – a serious but popular, commercial but intelligent British songwriter.

The music is generally presented in a classic indie pop/rock style, with an ability to write catchy tunes, but allied to an interesting lyrical approach that doesn’t shy away from the controversial – Brazil is about FIFA corruption. The music also takes some interesting turns – Isombard opens with a harpsichord riff before going down a more conventional rock route. Overall, it’s a youthful but surprisingly musically mature sound, and heralds someone who might re-invigorate the idea of an artist who can get played on Radio 1, have a major teen fanbase, yet also say something interesting. 8.5/10

 

Public Service Broadcasting introduced a truly original approach on their debut in 2013, using old film and Pathé news type spoken-word samples to accompany their instrumental, largely electronic music. It worked surprisingly well. Their second album was Race for Space, all about the 50s and 60s space race, and now their latest “Every Valley” takes the South-Wales coalfield as its conceptual theme and tells the story of the death of coal mining in the region. Like their previous work, it is surprisingly effective.

Some tracks this time use more conventional guest vocalists including James Dean Bradfield of the Manics on Turn No More, while the spoken samples include anonymous locals recorded by PSB as well as Richard Burton.  The music is varied but perhaps more “rock” and guitar based this time around, but again the spoken word extracts are used very cleverly, and the end result at its best is enjoyable but also political and surprisingly emotional (the final track uses a male voice choir rather beautifully). A few tracks settle into a pleasant background music vibe, but it’s well worth checking out. 8/10

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