PSB created quite a stir 18 or so months ago with their unusual debut album ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain’, a unique blend of indie and electronica put to soundtracks from old newsreel films. Their 9-track follow-up is concept album ‘The Race for Space’, dealing with the Cold War period when the USA and Soviet Union went toe to toe in their quest to explore the heavens.
We start our Space Odyssey with a haunting take on JFK’s 1961 proclamation before congress to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. ‘Sputnik’ is a delicious slice of Jarre-era moodiness that builds beautifully, not unlike ‘Giorgio by Moroder’. The aforementioned spacecraft’s pilot is the subject of track three, an urgent, infectious slice of punk-funk, complete with a 6-piece brass section who sound like they’ve just been kidnapped (or rather, rescued) from a Phil Collins live tour.
Following this euphoria comes the inevitable bleakness of ‘Fire in the Cockpit’ an ode to the three souls lost in the Apollo 1 accident, as the darker yet equally noteworthy side of the space race is explored. ‘EVA’ is a groove-laden tribute to the first ever space-walk, (Extra Vehicular Activity) a superbly executed instrumental as Ozric meets Rush. ‘The Other Side’ follows the orbit of Apollo 8 around the far side of the moon, the first manned mission of its kind as velocity reaches 7777ft/second (over 5,000mph), the tension almost palpable during the radio silence, the listener waiting with baited breath in anticipation of the crew’s successful re-emergence as everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief.
Deliciously dreamy ‘Valentina’ celebrates the USSR’s first woman in space as for once the compelling audio is replaced by the delightful breathiness of duo The Smoke Fairies plus soothing guitar. Penultimate track ‘Go!’ captures the moment Mr Armstrong and Mr Aldrin touch down in the Lunar Module whereas final track ‘Tomorrow’ complete with an unexpected and euphoric coda takes us to Apollo 17, the final manned mission to the moon some 3 years later.
Not for everyone but I challenge anyone to listen to the opening track without being reeled in for the whole epic journey. The listener can even choose a USA or USSR themed album artwork cover…….how thoughtful.
Words - Mike Price
The Race For Space is released on February 23rd on Test Card Recordings. Buy
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