Tag Archives: British Sea Power

British sea power ‘Macheneries of joy’ – review

12 Apr

‘Remember me, oh remember me’ British Sea Power exclaimed on one of the ten best songs of the past decade (according to last month’s BBC 6 music poll). These days it’s a more gentle ‘You will remember me won’t you?’ On ‘A Light Above Descending.’  Their approach may have changed but the jist is the same; British sea power don’t want you to forget about them. And it would be hard to – over the past decade the band have released five albums, two soundtracks, dozens of e.ps and an utterly brilliant book. They tour regularly and a host a monthly night in Brighton where they blitz through entire albums to a small but devoted following.

This is the band that audaciously prefixed their debut album’s title with the phrase ‘British Sea Power’s classic…’ they were right as well, it was a classic and no doubt.  They followed it with two more; the soothing ‘Open Season’ and the bruising ‘Do You Like Rock Music’. The band compared their debut to an obsticle course and ‘Open Season’ to a relaxing bath that comes after. Listening to this one is more like taking a dip in the ocean. Icy and bracing at first but ultimately invigorating, adventurous and great fun. It washes over you on repeated listens and even by their standards it seems to delight in sunday driving its way to your heart.

It opens with the title track, a song built around a steady motorik beat and some lovely viola playing from Abi Fry, who is now a full-time member of the band. It’s her playing that makes this such a distinctive record. It adds elegance to ‘Hail Holy Queen’, dark atmosphere to the otherwise mundane ‘When a Warm Wind Blows Through the Glass’ and sheer beauty to ‘What You Need’. Her presence means that the guitars take more of a backseat this time around, although they still crank up the rock on the cautionary Ketomine ode ‘K-Hole’ and the slightly sinister ‘Loving Animals’.

Lyrically the album is a typically obtuse and intellectual record that deals with themes as diverse as British spring time, party drugs and physics. unfortunately their steady decline in this department continues. ‘Decline of British Sea Power’ contained some of the most evocative, thought-provoking, and downright thrilling lyrics of recent times (who could forget the epic ‘Lately’ that beautifully chronicled a soldier’s frenzied mental state?). But as on ‘Valhalla Dancefloor’, the lyrics here are too vague and highfalutin to truly penetrate in a meaningful way. It’s a shame, not only because it was once their great strength, but also because it’s the one significant flaw of the record.

‘Vallhalla Dancefloor’ was both more ambitious and more pedestrian than this: ‘Machineries of  ‘Joy’ is a well-trimmed and expertly sequenced album that demonstrates just what accomplished producers and arrangers BSP have become. Whereas ‘Valhalla Dancehall’ and ‘Man of Aran’ felt slightly clumsy and overreaching, this record is nuanced and deftly edited. It’ss no return to form because the band have never lost form. Ok, it kind of lacks the excitement that ‘ Valhalla Dancefloor’s’ wild experimentation generated and it hasn’t got the spirit or genius lyrical bent of the first trilogy of albums. But British Sea Power surely have more clean sheets than any other band this decade and ‘Machineries of Joy’ is a lovely addition to the family. An album to remember then, from a band you’re never likely to forget.

8/10

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British Sea Power ‘Vallhalla Dancehall’ – Review

17 Jan

British Sea Power have been on the sidelines of the mainstream for the best part of a decade now, waiting to play ball in the indie big leagues. At times it has seemed possible that they would eventually crossover (when the singles from ‘Open Season’ got daytime play on Radio 1, and ‘Do You Like Rock Music’ went top ten in 2008) but the general perception is that they are too weird, too uncompromising and simply too good to be truly commercial. Regardless, that ship has sailed and ‘Valhalla Dancehall (their fourth L.P, not including the largely forgettable instrumental soundtrack, ‘Man of Aran’), is aimed strictly at the faithful. As far as I’m concerned British Sea Power are one of the most consistently brilliant bands of the last decade, they have yet to put a foot wrong, and ‘Valhalla Dancehall’ is a largely triumphant comeback after three years away.

Ignore the reviews that tell you this is a strange album; There is nothing too adventurous or weird on here – like it’s predecessor ‘Valhalla Dancehall’ is unashamedly a meat and potatoes rock album. Luckily though it’s a quirky rock album (and I said quirky not eccentric – that’s another myth about British Sea Power, they’re actually a pretty normal band). The opening three tracks follow a pretty traditional ‘rock formula; manic album opener ‘Who’s In Control’ rattles along at a furious pace, it’s an angry song about our nation’s apathy towards protest and it includes the Brilliantly British Sea Power line ‘We’re not even that scary / I’m a big fan of the local library’. Track 2, ‘We Are Sound’, harks back to British Sea Power’s best early singles, with an indie as indie can be guitar line and anthemic chorus. Track 3 , ‘Georgie Ray’, is a lighters aloft power ballad with a blinding guitar solo and downbeat lyrics about an approaching apocalypse.

British Sea Power have always had musically aggressive songs (for example ‘Favours in Beachroot Fields’) but lyrically they have always been gently, oddly British. However ‘Valhalla Dancefloor’ changes that as this time around they aren’t scared to say exactly what they want and the language they use is a lot less ornate and a lot more direct. For example where they once they sang ‘And the lake was clear as crystal / The best tea we ever drank’, now they sing ‘Put the fucking kettle on.’ The lyrics here are powerful, simple and generally quite gloomy. On their first three albums they looked to the past for inspiration, here they are singing about the times we live in now. Gone as well are the references to nature; there is the odd line about ‘Sussex downs’ and ‘pigeon shoots’ but this is tame stuff from the band that once brought us songs called ‘The Great Skua Bird’ and ‘Apologies to Insect Life’. It’s a change but I’m not sure if it’s a change I like.

My one big gripe with ‘Valhalla Dacehall’ is that it’s not the ambitious and challenging comeback I was expecting. Overall it feels like ‘Do You Like Rock Music’ part 2, and considering they’ve been away for three years I was hoping for more than that. BSP have always made great leaps from one album to another; from the post punk fury of the debut to the etherial indie pop of ‘Open Season’, to the back to basics approach of the ‘Do You Like Rock Music’ and the post-rock experiments on ‘Man of Aran’. By their standards ‘Valhalla Dancefloor’ plays it very safe – although we should still remember that safe by their standards is still considered ambitious by just about everyone else. I mean, one song goes on for 11 minutes, another for 7 minutes,  and there are some arrangements on here that make Arcade Fire sound like a pub band.

So whilst ‘Valhalla Dancefloor’ contains little to match their past glories it is still a pretty fantastic album and easily the first great record of 2011. Too weird to crossover and not weird enough to be considered truly out there, British Sea Power seem destined to remain a cult interest for years to come. But if they keep making records as good as this then they will be one of the biggest and best cult interests in town.

8/10


British Sea Power Return With New Album!

23 Nov

British Sea Power’s fourth album ‘Valhalla Dancehall’ will be released in January and you can hear the first single ‘Living is Easy’ below.

Here is the tracklisting

  1. “Who’s In Control”
  2. “We Are Sound”
  3. “Georgie Ray”
  4. “Stunde Null”
  5. “Mongk II”
  6. “Luna”
  7. “Baby”
  8. “Living Is So Easy”
  9. “Observe The Skies”
  10. “Cleaning Out The Rooms”
  11. “Thin Black Sail”
  12. “Once More Now”
  13. “Heavy Water”

British Sea Power ‘Zeus’ – Review

4 Oct

I’m not shy in expressing my love for British Sea Power, I’d go as far to say they are the single most overlooked band of the last decade. They haven’t been entirely overlooked, they have always received great reviews and their last album went top ten, but they truly made three of the best indie albums of the 00’s and I don’t think they got enough recognition for that.

If I have one criticism it’s that they take far too long between albums, their fourth record wont be out until January, but for now we have ‘Zeus’, a seven track e.p. The opening song  here suggests that the next album will be simular to the epic and anthemic ‘Do You Like Rock Music’ only bigger, louder and more intense. This song is seven minutes and as it progresses it gets crazier and more ferocious. The next song ‘Cleaning Out The Rooms’ is also over seven minutes long but that shouldn’t put you off, after all this is the band that made ‘Lately’ a song that went on for 13 minutes but didn’t waste a single second. ‘Cleaning… is the only song from here that will appear on their next album proper and although it’s darker and more experimental than much of their older material it isn’t a giant departure for the group.

British Sea Power’s key charm has always been their lyrics which are romantic, nostalgic and rich in detail. In the past they have focused on very English and often historical subjects but ‘Do You Like Rock Music’ saw them extending their observations to both the wider world and more personal emotions. The e.p continues in these directions, thus there are no songs about tea, Canvey Island, World Ward Two or the smallest church in Sussex but overall things are still pretty unusual. It’s harder to decipher the lyrics on ‘Zeus’ as often the vocals have been messed with – ‘kW-h’ features bizarre use of autotune and ‘Can We Do It’ is drenched in swirling reverb. On the other songs the vocals are buried rather deep in the mix which makes these songs sound raw and very live but it does rather distract from the lyrics. ‘Bear’ is the exception – it’s not just the best thing on here but also one of the best things they have ever done. The band use their brilliant eye for detail to paint a picture of a declining love. ‘I saw you reading the daily star/ I saw you watching the X Factor/ when did you fall so far?’ It’s a great song.

It’s not all that good though, we shouldn’t forget that these songs are essentially the ones that didn’t make it onto the fourth album so it’s to be expected that the quality is mixed. ‘Mongk’ is useless and good for nothing whilst ‘Pardon My Friends’ isn’t much better, although it does kind of melt over your ears. ‘Can We Do It’ is pretty energetic but not in the same way as their classic ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ – this just feels a bit like filler.

‘Zeus’ does it’s job more than adequately – it serves as a prelude to the band’s fourth album, suggesting the direction they will probably go in, whilst rounding up the songs the band must have thought didn’t fit on the new record. Of course it isn’t brilliant but it is a very interesting listen and you can consider me well and truly excited to hear where they go next.

7/10


British Sea Power Return!

24 Sep

In October British Sea Power return with a pretty epic new ep that they are calling ‘Zeus’. Apparently a song called ‘Cleaning Out The Rooms’ will be on a proper album that is coming out in January. But this will more than do for now (check out the title track over on the band’s website.)

1) Zeus
2) Cleaning Out The Rooms
3) Can We Do It?
4) Bear
5) Pardon My Friends
6) Mongk
7) Kw-h
+ unlisted bonus track ‘Retreat’

Reading and Leeds FR Stage announced

15 Jun

The festival Republic stage has been announced for Reading and Leeds this year and it’s a pretty strong lineup. Headlining are Ash and British Sea Power, both of whom rank amongst the best live bands in the world. Marina and the Diamonds are the third headliner and my highlights of the rest of the bill include the Brilliant AVI Buffalo who play on Friday Reading/ Sunday Leeds, Adam Green, Summer Camp, Harlem, Warpaint and The Cheek who are all on the Friday/Sunday as well.  On Saturday Reading / Friday Leeds I would check out Darwin Deez and Chapel Club and on the Sunday Reading / Saturday Leeds I would keep an eye out for Tame Impala, The Like and Fools Gold. Of course there are amazing bands to look forward to elsewhere on the bill including Blink 182, The Libertines, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, The Drums, Girls, Pendulum, Biffy Clyro, Pheonix etc etc etc

Albums to look forward to in 2010!

28 Nov

1. TBA – Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was working with the likes of Will I Am and Akon right before his death but the album had been in the works for many years before that. It was planned to be released ages ago but Jackson kept pushing it back, but now we may fnaly get to hear it in 2010. This is the most anticipated album of next year because everybody is interested to see what Jackson was up to in his final years of productivity and how he would sound in the 21st century, working with some of the coolest names around. Who knows in what form we will hear material, we just want to hear it as he would have wanted.

2. TBA – The Strokes

We have been waiting for the next Strokes album for so long there is an almost certainty that it won’t live up to expectations. That said, ‘Phrazes For The Young’ was unexpectedly good and hopefully the next Strokes album (If it comes next year) can be even better. The chances of them pulling of another Is This It, or even ‘Room On Fire’ may be slim but most people would be happy with something more thought out than ‘First Impressions of Earth’ which wasn’t as bad as some people remember but hardly set the world on fire.

3. TBA – The Drums

Easily the most anticipated debut of next year, The Drums ‘mini LP’ released a few months ago was a breath of fresh air and hopefully the album will build on that. It’s not been said whether fan favourites such as ‘Lets Go Surfin’ will appear on the record but new songs including ‘Forever and ever amen’ almost certainly will.

4. Astro Coast – Surfer Blood

A great new band who combine surf punk and weezer-esque anthems, this album is out in January and is already getting a lot of buzz. Set to include the awesome ‘Swim to Reach The End’.

5. TBA – LCD Soundsystem

The follow-up to the best dance album of the noughties can’t be as good as ‘Sound of Silver, can it? The cynic in me says no way but if anyone can do it then LCD Soundsystem can.

6. Congratulations – MGMT

They have previewed a few tracks from congratulations and they all sound like classic MGMT. The album may be a double, with one disc dedicated to pop and the other psychedelia, or that may have been a massive joke. Either way this is going to be a big, crazy event.

7. Contra – Vampire Weekend

Cousins didn’t really live up to my expectations, it sounded too similar to what I have heard from VW before. Hopefully this isn’t too representative of the album because it would be a shame if ‘Contra’ is just a retread for the band. I really look forward to finding out.

8. TBA – British Sea Power

‘Do You Like Rock Music’ was so much better than I could have hoped, and it’s true follow up is due next year. No hint yet on which direction the band are going in but I doubt we will see much of a departure from the art rockers.

9.  The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack

At the beginning of the year The Soft Pack seemed to be the most exciting band in indie. At the end of the year they still haven’t released their debut and bands like Girls and The Drums have stolen their thunder. But finally The Soft Pack will be releasing their LP in January and I can’t wait.

10. TBA – Arctic Monkeys

‘Humbug’ split fans down the middle but it seems that their next album will see Arctic Monkeys repeating it’s hard rock and long hair formula. They say they want to record it fast and keep it heavy so it’s perfectly possible that we will get to hear the album late next year.

11. Odd Blood – Yeasayer

Yeasayer are one of the most innovative bands of recent memory, their sound is a combination of vocal harmonies, world music, tribal chants and electronica. ‘Ambling Alp’ was the first taste from album number 2 and if the rest of the record is as good then ‘Odd Blood’ should be one to look out for in 2010.

12. Gershwin/Disney projects – Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys genius has got two projects lined up for 2010. He will be reworking the music of Gershwin in the traditional Brian Wilson style and then he will be having a go at the Disney classics. Both albums will be released on the Disney label next year and whilst they could be disasters, if anyone can pull it off then Brian Wilson can.