The great news is that Public Access TV’s second record, Street Safari, is better than their debut, Never Enough, and it’s a case of ‘a little bit of the same, but a lot more of the other.’
The difference between the two records is like the difference between The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day – the second is glossier, sexier and a much more attractive proposition for non-genre fans.
There’s that same rusty-van, busted-jeans, smoke-and-sweat authenticity - only this album feels slightly looser, slightly sexier, slightly groovier – and much, much better for it. Where debut album tracks like “Evil Disco” and “In Our Blood” featured rough(ish) guitars and punky rhythms, this album is sleek, lithe, and supple.
“Metrotech” gave the first sign that something had changed when it blasted through the speakers with major Clash vibes – not your mother’s Clash, but The Clash of “Radio Clash” and “Rock the Casbah”. It’s slinky, and groovy, and bounces along on an exuberant bassline. It’s so authentically New Wave that it could be in the next season of Stranger Things and nobody would bat an eyelid.
Second single “Lost in the Game” was surprising because it displayed a looseness and swagger that had only been hinted at on the debut. The guitars gleam like chrome, the vocals yearn, and the drums pop right out of the speakers. It sounds like a million dollars – something the first album actively avoided.
Album opener “Safari (In My Head)” is an insistent, raucous party-pop cut with bubbling bass and “us against the world” lyrics. The second track, “Shell No. 2” is a gorgeous love song, with call-and-response vocals and bittersweet lyrics: “Together at last/We forget the past/We can make it last”.
The punk influences manifest themselves on mid-album track “Rough Boy” – it sounds like a mixture of The Ramones and some of the leaner New Wave bands like The Vapors. It’s a fast, nasty snarl of a thing – complete with handclaps and the roughest guitars on the album.
Album highlight “Wait it Out” features shimmering guitars and some heavy disco bass – it’s reminiscent of the kind of buoyant, taut jams made by Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads or Rio-era Duran Duran. It’s another flavour in an already varied record.
“Meltdown” is pristine, yearning pop songcraft – it sounds like a Tom Petty (RIP) tribute. Even the title is a bit Petty-ish. On the final track, “The Quicksands”, there’s a thunderous bass groove amchored on a heavyweight beat, closing the album out in style.
In short, the world can never have enough albums like this. Not only have Public Access TV added to the run of great New Wave-tinged pop records of the past few year or so – from Phoenix’ Ti Amo to Spoon’s Hot Thoughts, what they’ve also done is make an album that sounds like the more metropolitan end of New Wave, encompassing disco, punk and 80s pop. So, if you’ve ever found your foot tapping to something from Combat Rock, your head nodding to something from Parallel Lines, or found yourself missing Tom Petty, Public Access T.V. have got you covered.