The Race for Space (album)

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The Race for Space
Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space (cover).jpg
Studio album by
Released23 February 2015
RecordedJacamar Studios, The Pool Studios, Abbey Road Studios
Genre
Length43:40
LabelTest Card Recordings
Public Service Broadcasting chronology
Inform-Educate-Entertain
(2013)
The Race for Space
(2015)
Every Valley
(2017)
Singles from The Race for Space
  1. "Go!"
  2. "Sputnik EP"

The Race for Space is the second studio album by British alternative group Public Service Broadcasting. Working with sound samples from the British Film Institute, the album relives the story of the American and Soviet space race from 1957-1972. The opening track features the speech by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1962 at Rice University.

To launch the album, the band played two concerts on 26 and 27 February 2015 at the National Space Centre in Leicester and went on to complete a 14-date tour of the UK and Ireland to support the album. The band have expressed concern in the past about playing the whole album cover to cover live, due to the subject matter of track 4 ("Fire in the Cockpit")[1][2] but did so for the first time at Manchester Science Festival in October 2016.[3][4]

The album reached No. 11 in the UK chart and No. 1 in the UK Indie Albums Chart the week following its release. The vinyl edition was the 5th highest selling record of 2015 in the UK.[5]

Background[edit]

The events covered on the album include the launch of Sputnik 1, the Apollo 1 fire, and the Vostok 1, Voskhod 2, Vostok 6, Apollo 8, Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic73/100[6]
Review scores
SourceRating
The Arts Desk4/5 stars[7]
The Austin Chronicle3/4 stars[8]
Clash7/10[9]
DIY3/5 stars[10]
Drowned in Sound8/10[11]
The Guardian3/5 stars[12]
The Irish Times3/5 stars[13]
The Independentpositive[14]
The Observer4/5 stars[15]
State5/5 stars[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon its release, The Race for Space was met with largely positive reviews from music critics. Most reviews praised the band's choice of theme and commented heavily on the album's use of tone and instrumentation to depict certain events in the space race. While most critics unanimously praised upbeat tracks such as "Gagarin" and "The Other Side", they were somewhat divided on other tracks on the album, such as "Fire in the Cockpit" and "Valentina", which drew, if any, minor criticism. In comparison to the band's debut album, Inform-Educate-Entertain, critics also believed that The Race for Space had elevated the band from a "novelty act", and praised the album as a concept album that improves on its predecessor. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 73, which indicates "Generally favorable reviews", based on 12 reviews as of December 2015.[6]

Kevin Harley, writing in The Independent, wrote that the band proved themselves with the album; "there’s fuel enough for manoeuvre in pop that’s piloted with intelligence, energy, craft and atmospheric control, even if it seems frightfully, stiflingly high-concept." He commented on the band's departure form the rock-centric sounds of Inform-Educate-Entertain to a more electronic sound, relating the band's move to the album's opening track, with John F. Kennedy's speech for "change and challenge". He also further praised the album's mood tonal shifts, and concluded the review by stating, "[The Race for Space] is richly entertaining, immersive and evocative, orchestrated with fastidious care and feeling."[14] In an extremely positive review for State, Phil Udell praised the album, and its space race theme, as giving the band's sound "a new dimension". He comments lightly on The Race for Space's music taking "more of a backseat than [Inform-Educate-Entertain]", and going on to write in praise of "The Other Side".[16]

To encompass such a momentous period in human history into one record – and a short one at that – may have seemed like an act of high folly but, like their forebears, Public Service Broadcasting have chosen this path not because it is easy, but because it is hard. The results are stellar.

— Phil Udell[16]

In his positive review of the album for Drowned in Sound, Marc Burrows wrote that "the joy [in The Race for Space] is in how the duo marry theme and function", citing specifically the album's instrumentals and their fit to the archival recordings used, such as "the beeping signal of the pioneering "Russian moon" built into the loping, housy rhythm of 'Sputnik'", and "'E.V.A''s portrayal of Alexey Leonov’s first spacewalk through quietly disorientating switches in timing and mood, breaking from excitement and speed to a gentle drifting."[11] He also commented positively on the album's unbiased use of both positive and tragic moments from the space race as context to the music; something Harley had also noted in his review.[14] Burrows also notably concluded the review in emotionally-charged praise of "The Other Side", describing it as "history and melody and wonder hitting you all at once in a moment of complete joy and release. Just wonderful."[11] At The Arts Desk, Thomas H Green wrote that The Race for Space is an effective reminder of "the 1960s media's wild excitement about the space race" and "the era when every boy wanted to be an astronaut", which had been "almost forgotten". He also stated that the band took advantage of the current trends in electronic music, such as sampling, comparing them to The Egg, in a positive light. He wrote that The Race for Space was "a rich and thoroughly enjoyable nine-track journey", and stated that the band "reinvented the concept album as a delightful, historically engaged rave-up."[7]

Phil Mongredien of The Observer stated that the album's space race theme was a "smart move", praising the band's use of "finely judged soundscapes",[15] while his counterpart, Jenny Stevens, writing for the parent newspaper The Guardian, was less positive about the album. She wrote, instead, that the album "does little to provoke", stating that the album was "less intrepid than its source material."[12] Tony Clayton-Lea, writing for The Irish Times, spoke positively about the album, but challenged its replay value, stating that while "It’s all nicely “out there”, with music channelling Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin... whether you’d want to listen to it more than a few times is debatable."[13]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Year Rank
Rough Trade Albums of the Year 2015 2015

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleInspiring eventLength
1."The Race for Space"John F. Kennedy's September 1962 Speech2:41
2."Sputnik"Sputnik 1 (1957 - First satellite)7:09
3."Gagarin"Vostok 1 (1961 - First human in space)3:49
4."Fire in the Cockpit"Apollo 1 disaster (1967 - First planned Apollo mission)3:02
5."E.V.A."Voskhod 2 (1965 - First spacewalk)4:16
6."The Other Side"Apollo 8 (1968 - First visit to moon)6:20
7."Valentina" (featuring Smoke Fairies)Vostok 6 (1963 - First woman and first civilian in space)4:29
8."Go!"Apollo 11 (1969 - First moon landing)4:13
9."Tomorrow"Apollo 17 (1972 - Final Apollo mission)7:22
Total length:43:21

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from The Race for Space liner notes.[18]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2015) Peak
position
New Zealand Albums (Recorded Music NZ)[19] 25
UK Albums (OCC)[20] 11
UK Independent Albums (OCC)[21] 1

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[22] Silver 60,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Remix album[edit]

In June 2016, a CD of remixes was released. Included is a song based on Sergei Korolev, which was included on the Sputnik CD single. This version of the album reached number 59 in the UK album charts.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fox, Iain (27 September 2016). "GIMME YOUR ANSWERS: AN INTERVIEW W/ PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING". A Music Blog Yeah. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Mary Anne Hobbs sits in... joined by Public Service Broadcasting". Radcliffe and Maconie. 19 October 2016. BBC. 6music. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Public Service Broadcasting: The Race For Space". Manchester Science Festival 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  4. ^ Heward, Emily (17 August 2016). "Public Service Broadcasting to open Manchester Science Festival 2016". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  5. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-32251994
  6. ^ a b "Reviews for The Race for Space by Public Service Broadcasting". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b Green, Thomas H. (18 February 2015). "CD: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space". The Arts Desk. The Arts Desk Ltd. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  8. ^ Beets, Greg (20 March 2015). "Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space (Test Card Recordings)". The Austin Chronicle. Austin Chronicle Corp. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  9. ^ Rivers, Joe (2 March 2015). "Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space". Clash. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  10. ^ Moss, Will (21 February 2015). "Album Review: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space". DIY. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Burrows, Marc (17 February 2015). "Album Review: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space". Drowned in Sound. Silentway. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  12. ^ a b Stevens, Jenny (20 February 2015). "Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space review – less intrepid than its source material". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  13. ^ a b Clayton-Lea, Tony (26 February 2015). "Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space - Album Review". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Harley, Kevin (21 February 2015). "Public service broadcasting, The race for space - album review: The follow-up should fix that". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  15. ^ a b Mongredien, Phil (22 February 2015). "Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space review – a smart follow-up". The Observer (The Guardian). Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  16. ^ a b c Udell, Phil (23 February 2015). "Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space". State. Roger Woolman. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  17. ^ "Albums of the Year 2015". roughtrade.com. 2015-11-25. Retrieved 2015-12-10.
  18. ^ The Race for Space (liner notes). Public Service Broadcasting. Test Card Recordings. 2015.
  19. ^ "NZ Top 40 Albums Chart". Recorded Music NZ. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  20. ^ "Public Service Broadcasting | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  22. ^ "British album certifications – Public Service Broadcasting – The Race for Space". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type The Race for Space in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.