CD REVIEW: The Race for Space by Public Service Broadcasting

GAGARIN is my very favourite single of the last year, without a doubt.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it on the radio and watched it on YouTube, but it never gets old. To me, it’s the best thing since Pharrell Williams’ Happy.

I love its driving funk bass, relentless dance beat, fanfare of brass and its groovy astronaut duo (watch the video, if you haven’t already).

I was worried that the album it hails from — cool nerds Public Service Broadcasting’s new effort The Race for Space — couldn’t match it.

Thankfully it can and it does. As with debut album Inform-Educate-Entertain, PSB blends archive audio, instruments and electronics into excellent music.

This evokes the sense of hope and optimism which must have come with mankind’s first forays beyond Earth.

The exception is Fire in the Cockpit, which remembers in dark synth waves and clinical bleeps the Apollo 1 mission’s disastrous end.

Tomorrow (Apollo 17) and Sputnik (self-explanatory) are down-tempo but steady — not dancing music, but serene and soothing.

But other tracks, like new single Go! (Apollo 11) and EVA (Voskhod 2), are toe-tappingly upbeat, as might be expected from the band which brought us Everest and Spitfire.

The new album has clearly been inspired by the rise of retro wave — a modern musical genre nostalgic for synth addicts of the 1980s.

Nowhere is this clearer than in The Other Side, which celebrates Apollo 8’s round-the-moon transit with minimalist beeps and twangs.

Valentina is something of an outlier, with an acoustic sound and simple, ethereal vocals commemorating the first woman astronaut.

The album is an holistic look at the early years of humans in space, probing a range of emotions from despair to ecstasy.

It holds together well and never bores. What’s more, it has encouraged me to learn more about man (and woman) in orbit.

In short the band’s quest to inform, educate and entertain is going from strength to strength.

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