It's no secret that Public Service Broadcasting are a fantastic live band. I first saw them back in December (you can read my review for The MMP if you're interested), and they were so good that I shelled out to see them a second time in May. Both gigs were great fun: a brilliant combination of awesome music and shrewdly-used film.
After that pair of knockout live shows, I was obviously pretty excited to get my hands on PSB's debut album. But while Inform-Educate-Entertain was good, it wasn't quite the revelation I'd been hoping for. I wasn't alone in this, either - check out this review from MiddleMusic.net:
Now, in fairness, I don't entirely agree with that conclusion. The film clips certainly add something, but I think crackers like Night Mail and The Now Generation stand up perfectly well without them. In fact, they sound fantastic (each of those two songs has an absolutely incredible final minute or so) and Public Service Broadcasting have a great knack for creating music that's both atmospheric and immediately arresting. Here's Lit Up, another excellent example:
So what's the problem? If you ask me, it's the first two tracks. The opener seems like a cool idea at first: it's an overture-style composition that mixes elements from some of the songs that follow. But once you're familiar with those songs, you don't want to hear snippets of them all mashed together - you want to hurry up and get to the real McCoy.
Track 2 is Spitfire, an absolute blinder. But as good as it is, it's got no place on this album. Spitfire, you see, had already been featured on an EP called The War Room, and since it felt right at home there, it feels a little out of place when it pops up here. I realise that failing to include one of your best-known songs on your debut album doesn't sound like a good move, but Spitfire's presence makes Inform-Educate-Entertain feel more like a Greatest Hits compilation than a cohesive studio album.
So my solution to this problem is simply to start the album from track 3. Theme from PSB makes a great opener, and while this does leave the album feeling a little short, there's nothing wrong with leaving your audience wanting more.