Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Spitfire” by Public Service Broadcasting from their debut, Inform-Educate-Entertain, on Redeye.
Public Service Broadcasting are a puzzling endeavor. The London-based experimental rock duo wears clothes from another era and use dated public service announcements and narratives from old British films as the vocal presence for their music. Behind the voices of strangers are a duo playing tight knit, highly technical experimental rock. J Wilgoose, Esq and Wrigglesworth (both of whom could be Bond villains, for all we know) play wonderfully together, pulling on both the British experimental brilliance of Pet Shop Boys as well as guitar-driven Krautrock acts like Neu!. The resulting mixture is a startlingly unique presentation — a sensation that can alternate between totally confrontational and Wonderfully chill in a heartbeat. The band dropped their debut EP The War Room in May of 2013 and in November, followed it up with the full-length we are now enjoying in detail.
There’s a great reason “Spitfire” made the jump from The War Room to Inform-Educate-Entertain. The track is a standout on both efforts and a quintessential example of both the sound and presence Public Service Broadcasting are trying to capture in their unique musical presentation. The narrative tells the story of British inventor R J Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire aircraft, which is credited for helping the Royal Air Force win the Battle of Britain in 1940. The footage comes from the British film The First of the Few, from 1942, starring Leslie Howard as Mitchell. The first Public Service Broadcasting EP focuses on using footage from the war era, while the second focuses in on propaganda, pathos, and media hypnosis. “Spitfire”, the inspiring track about the war in Britain’s greatest inventor, fits the characteristics for both records beautifully.
Behind the vocal track is a brilliant little hook of a guitar and drum riff. Public Service Broadcasting know how to build an intellient, well-paced instrumental track that doesn’t need to rely on much more than the simple arrangement at hand. Other than a handful of background, filler instruments, the track is simply guitar and drums pounding their way forward not unlike Radiohead’s “Bodysnatchers”. The instrumental for “Spitfire” builds beautifully with the swell of the narrative. While it might take you a listen or two to really wrap your head around what the band is trying to capture, once things click, “Spitfire” makes for a super unique listening experience with a murderously good hook that will have you begging for more.
Public Service Broadcasting were just in town. Hopefully, you caught them, but if not, stay in touch through their website and Facebook page so you don’t miss them again. For now, watch the video below, featuring the archival footage the band are known for using in their live AV sets: