Album Review: Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

By on Wednesday, 5th July 2017 at 12:00 pm

Public Service Broadcasting Every Valley album coverOn all of their releases thus far, Public Service Broadcasting have taken a different approach to telling the overarching story they’ve chosen for the record. Their third album ‘Every Valley’ is no different. Second album ‘The Race for Space’ took key experiences of the American and Russian spaceflight programs and set them to music. One of its primary intentions was to show how far-reaching and awe-inspiring the effects of this race towards reaching for the stars actually were to so many people.

On ‘Every Valley’, they’ve invited a few more friends to join them in the studio, which in this case was in Ebbw Vale, Wales. They chose to specifically magnify life in the working-class South Wales valley and how coal mining and the miners themselves (“the kings of the underworld” as described by Welsh-born acting legend Richard Burton) shaped the region in the 20th century. Percussion drives ‘The Pit’, which also features the menacing drone of guitars, a weighty reminder of the tough working conditions inside the mines. That’s your signal to put your hard hat on, and we’ll begin.

Memorable melodies are one of Public Service Broadcasting’ strong suits, and there are many moments here that will stay with you. Remarkably upbeat and futuristic backing ‘People Will Always Need Coal’ is just behind the misplaced optimism of coal mining as a viable occupation for years to come. ‘Progress’, with guest vocals from Camera Obscura’s Traceyanne Campbell, keeps up this optimism. Skillful guitar melodies and the gay synths of ‘Go to the Road’ seem out of place, as it highlights the miners’ strikes and eventual capitulation to the powers that be, that “you’re selling your son’s job, not your job”. Later on in the tracklisting, the bluesy ‘Mother of the Village’ is sympathetic in the miners’ acceptance that life will never be the same again.

Things take a chaotic turn on ‘All Out’: it’s PSB’s surprise moment, all hard-rocking squealing guitars. As it’s becoming clear that their days as miners are numbered, it’s entirely appropriate to sonically represent the growing discontent. So is the aggro feel of toe-tapper ‘Turn No More’, starring on James Dean Bradfield on vocals. Through his passionate cries, the singer has no trouble in expressing his anger over what happened to his “bruised and plundered” land. On 2013’s ‘Anthem for a Lost Cause’, Manic Street Preachers have trod similar ground before, which PSB approaches on ‘They Gave Me a Lamp’, a collaboration with instrumental Derbyshire group Haiku Salut, ringing out with bright brass notes. It’s a figurative soapbox to women’s support groups of the time, wives who supported the striking miners by joining the picket lines raising money and running soup kitchens for the miners.

Initially, it may seem hard to relate to a way of life that has now gone, so specific to a time and place. We may not be miners, we may not be from Wales, but their struggles and sacrifices back then are not unlike those many face today. The coal miners of South Wales wanted the dignity of an honest day’s work, and as the mines closed and their livelihoods were snuffed out, it was as if Westminster forgot the area ever existed. The way backs were turned on them is not all unlike how some sectors of society today feel disenfranchised and forgotten. It is impossible to listen to closer ‘Take Me Home’, a classic miners song sung a cappella by the local Beaufort Male Choir, and not have tears in your eyes.

As with past Public Service Broadcasting albums, this is a record meant to be listened to, then savoured again and again, each time serving to further your contemplation on the subject. In a different way to the previous ‘The Race for Space’ LP, ‘Every Valley’ is inspiring because I think we all think of ourselves as trying to do our best with the life we’ve been given. In their own special way, Public Service Broadcasting have managed to successfully convey the emotions of this once important, yet still very proud Welsh community through their music. We should never forget.


‘Every Valley’, Public Service Broadcasting’s third album, will be out on the 7th of July through PIAS. The band will be on tour in October in the UK to support the new release. All of our past coverage here on TGTF on the group’s doings are through here.

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