Tuesday, 19 February 2008

REVIEW: British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?

On the face of it, Brighton's (why does that slightly camp, otherwise nondescript seaside town seem to be the epicentre of British rock.....? I digress) British Sea Power should be one of those 'difficult' listens, taking time to wind their way into your skull with the subtle variations in their sound and lyrical asides. On past releases they've covered everything from Russian literature to serenading disintegrating ice shelves, which doesn't point to chart bothering fare in any way you might approach it. To a certain extent this rings true on their 2003 debut, the anti-prophetic 'The Decline of British Sea Power', which is all jagged guitar work and avant-something vigour. 2005's 'Open Season' was an unashamed work of immediate beauty, though, retaining all the lyrical inquisition of the debut but utilising Yan's airy, naturally emotive vocals and enveloping them in smooth, intricate guitar lines. This created my album of that year both for the immediacy but also the consistent returns from the depths offered on each repeat listen.

So against that backdrop, not to mention the slow-burning but enjoyable 'Krankenhaus?' ep of late last year, BSP were set to be one of my immediate faves for early 2008 dominance. Whilst I've come back multiple times for sure, I'm still a bit stuck with 'Do You Like Rock Music?'. The title itself is something of an empty quandary. Rarely do BSP seem to be aiming at irony in their material, so unless the question is aimed at themselves and very inward-focused, it feels quite removed from the songs inside. To wit.......there are some corkers. 'Down on the Ground' is pure BSP with uplifting waves of rhythm and an easy, lilting vocal.
'Waving Flags' departs into more melodramatic territory than was familiar on 'Open Season' but feels like a powerful statement of intent against unchecked identity crises. 'No Lucifer'

So far so good then, yes? Good songs crossing best bits of both albums, right? What's there to complain about? Why are you asking so many questions??? That title gets to you after a while. The thing is, it doesn't feel entirely coherent. Where as the last album was consistently beautiful throughout, regardless of the subject matter, this one feels more wide-ranging and you find yourself skipping to tracks that previously caught your ear. Not filler, really, more a case of which BSP you wish to listen to at this particular moment. It could be that I have the last one up on a pedestal, as to be honest I've only delved into their debut a limited number of times too, but even then I felt compelled to stay with it for the long haul and explore. Here I could stick on shuffle mode and not feel any different about the flow of the songs.

That distraction excepted, I am enjoying the individual songs and still feel confident this will be up there with the best of them this year. Unfortunately, though, it won't scale the sun kissed, lush green peaks of its immediate predecessor and perhaps always had too much to live up to. So the answer is yes, but next time if you could focus on the track listing as closely as the rhetorical genre unification that would be great boys. Cheers!

8.25 / 10

Listen: 'Down on the Ground'

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