Public Service Broadcasting: 2017
Public Service Broadcasting's JF Abraham, J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth at WFUV (photo by Mary Munshower)
When the inventive London-based trio Public Service Broadcasting released their ambitious second album, 2015's The Race For Space — which artfully traced the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union's competitive reach (and race) for outer space and lunar exploration from the '50s to the early '70s — the group was already thinking ahead to their third conceptual album, Every Valley. That album, released earlier this year, places the band far closer to home, exploring the politics and heartache of the 20th century collapse of British coal mining.
J. Willgoose, Esq. (all three members adhere to pseudonyms) admits that he had the crash of the mining industry of south Wales — and the calamitous affect on working class, mining families — on his mind for several years. Eventually his extensive research led him to the Welsh town of Ebbw Vale, where Public Service Broadcasting temporarily relocated in the winter of 2016 to record the album.
The meticulously researched historic scope of Every Valley begins with the brightly hyped "heyday" of the coal mining industry, but then segues to the miners' strikes of 1984-5, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Tory government's determination to weaken and dismantle unions, and the controversial decisions of Arthur Scargill, former president of the National Union of Mineworkers. Concurrently, as the Brexit campaign and vote unfolded last year, as PSB recorded Every Valley, the repercussions of that referendum also played into the album's arc.
Every Valley tells hard tales of hope turned to betrayal, but also celebrates resistence, defiance and fortitude. As multi-instrumentalist and guitarist J. Willgoose, Esq. and his compadres, drummer Wrigglesworth and multi-instrumentalist JF Abraham discovered during their time spent in Wales, the mining strikes also offered a courageous generation of women a potent, fresh voice of protest and leadership, which is eloquently captured with Public Service Broadcasting's deft use of samples of interviews with activists like Christine Powell, former treasurer of The Neath and District Miners Support Group.
Every Valley also includes special guests on the album, like Traceyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura, James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers, the Derbyshire trio Haiku Salut, and the Beaufort Male Choir, a local group from Ebbw Vale.
It was a real privilege to chat with J. Willgoose, Esq., Wrigglesworth and JF Abraham about one of the most ambitious and meaningful releases of 2017. The threesome also played a couple of "stripped down" songs from Every Valley for our Studio A setting — their live shows are cinematic, multimedia extravaganzas. The band plans another tour through the UK in April 2018.