Friday, December 19, 2008

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2008: Number 12

British Sea Power don't really have turning points or make or break moments, not when you're on the singular path they're taking, but getting Do You Like Rock Music? right seemed imperative. Their post-punk influenced "high church amplified rock music" had been taken well overground and last album Open Season got left behind somewhat, threatening to have them permanently marked down as That Band With The Foliage And The Bear. Their peculiar approach angle remains undisturbed, as does the ideology behind some of the recording venues - a derelict water tower, a 19th Century Cornish fortification, in the midst of a Czech forest - but working with post-rock producers and at Hotel2Tango (Arcade Fire, GY!BE) suggest one aim: big anthems, but (despite what others may tell you) in a post-post-rock world as opposed to U2's brain-disengage bombast. Stadium audiences would never, ever get everything that's going on here, so imprecise is BSP's science. They are a band who start their album with a choral chanted "we're all in it and we close our eyes" backed by treated guitar, martial drums, static and field recordings and proceed to show why to them it makes perfect sense to do so. Not only that, but they've finally got round to writing extended sleeve notes, a discipline for which they seem uniquely qualified but haven't delved into before now, which start by considering the still waters of Bohemia and conclude, several sidetrackings later, with "all the nice girls love a pasty".

More anthemic, but less radio friendly. In fact, in parts it skips an album and issues callbacks to the Cold War Pixies of The Decline Of... - Atom's Niels Bohr referencing headlong charge, or Lights Out For Darker Skies' Joey Santiago riff welded to an Albini-produced Wedding Present clatter as Yan, as Yan is wont to do when the clouds are closing in on him, frets about "sodium-scarred wailing weeks" and when "2007 becomes a pitch black heaven". Yan seems to have potential ecological catastrophe on his mind, Canvey Island introducing itself with the image of a H5N1 afflicted swan before concentrating on the flooding that devastated the reclaimed Thames estuary area as a warning of our future. "Sometimes it's hard to tell if it's going well" he ponders against restrained keening guitars that threaten to overwhelm him. Existential panic, luckily, is only the half of it. There's a majestic instrumental, The Great Skua, which seems right out of Constellation Records' top drawer; Waving Flags, a wall of delay pedal arms wide welcome to eastern European immigrants ("astronomical fans of alcohol", apparently); and there will only ever be one band who could write No Lucifer, a WWII-flavoured treatise on good and evil featuring crashing power chords, shivering violin, references to makes of bicycles, the lyric "to Sodom I will go, not to Megiddo", and the Big Daddy purloined "easy! Easy!" chant as punctuation. As We Close Our Eyes marches towards the sunset/Valhalla with a big pipe organ, it's not difficult to imagine the job has been comprehensively done.

No Lucifer

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