Monday, December 19, 2005

Albums Of The Year: Number 13



The temptation has always been to dismiss British Sea Power as a band too clever for their own good. Witness here the liner quote from Czech surrealist novelist Bohumil Hrabal, the recent joint 7" with the Wurzels, the sets that traditionally close with a part-improvised song called Rock In A which incorporates crash gymnastics, fighting an eight foot tall bear and essentially mayhem, and the way Open Season contains a song called Oh Larsen B, named after a melted polar ice shelf, and just so you don't get confused opens "you're fractured and cold, but your heart is unbroken/my favourite foremost coastal Antarctic shelf". Yet here's the punchline: it's a gorgeous in its own way song that could be about love or desperation (or a melted polar ice shelf, of course) and still fits "desalinate" into the chorus perfectly. Such is the reality of British Sea Power.

The biggest change since The Decline Of British Sea Power is while that album often sounded like Echo and the Bunnymen engaging in ultimate cage fights with the Pixies, Open Season took face value inspiration from nature and matches it with songs that bring out the melodic heart lurking at the core of those earlier songs behind the effects pedals and general air of dissonance. There's an epic quality coming to the fore now too, boosting songs at almost the precise moment they start to bland out and generally rewarding further plays as the hidden depths start to break through the surface calmness that led some to dismiss it as an airbrushing of their natural dissonance. The old Bunnymen/Furs/Bowie standard issue comparisons still have a ring of truth, but this time there's a veneer of late Smiths and the Northern windswept ballpark guarded by Doves and Elbow. Oh, and if you're at all worried, they still drape the amps in foliage, Eamon still makes off into the audience during Lately and they still depart a stage like nobody else.

LISTEN IN: Oh Larsen B
EXTRA FEATURE: They still give good interview, like this one with Gothamist

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