British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music?(Rough Trade) Buy it from Insound
I've come a long way since I first set eyes on British Sea Power in London, late 2002. At the time, I needed a band to hold on to through rough times and they were the ones. They delivered with a series of sublime singles and a cracking debut album. They played gigs in which I sweated, jumped and rocked like never before or since. In short, I loved them then and when the second album came out, because I loved that too.
Then they seemed to vanish for a couple of years. One of them left to do his own thing and it felt like I did too. Like getting a proper job and worrying about my future and paying gas bills. But now, here they are again and it's the most excited I've been about a new album since... well, since their last one.
Do You Like Rock Music? is another step forward in the same way Open Season was from The Decline Of... and already, many have lumped them in with the Arcade Fire in the "quirky indie band" section. However, the album is so far ahead of the overblown Neon Fire as to render comparisons irrelevant.
Of course, the apparent parallels have not been helped by being partly recorded in Montreal and, indeed, featuring a cameo from a member of Canada's hippest outfit. Lead single Waving Flags, with it's epic sweeps and choir, helped the lazier members of the media find a quick touchstone, but when the hushed opening of All In It fades to Lights Out For Darker Skies (led by a muscular riff bringing Joey Santiago to mind), it's clear we're in different territory.
This is not an album that rewards casual listening and at times can seem heavy going. However, careful listening (get them headphones on) reveals the care and attention that has been put into the songs, much to the credit of the band and producer Graham Sutton - he of Bark Psychosis fame.
That said, the band does approach several moments of - no other word for it - loveliness here. Hamilton's No Need to Cry and Open the Door double salvo works the album towards an end and shimmers along wonderfully. Indeed, Hamilton's own contributions on this album (half the album has his vocals as lead) essentially mean that British Sea Power have two frontmen.
What the album does lack, and this is no criticism, is a full-on "pop" number to ensnare casual listeners. The first album was full of them, the second had a couple (most notably Please Stand Up) - but Do You Like Rock Music? has very few instant "stand out" moments - it needs to be heard as a whole to make any kind of initial sense. It's hard to see radio taking the album to heart, but whether this matters in the diminishing days of broadcast influence is a topic for another day.
This is another huge step forward for a band not afraid to take them. It will not be to everyone's tastes but to those who need their contemporary bands to take risks and write beyond cheap pop references and crumbling romance, this is nothing short of essential.
Do You Like Rock Music? is unlikely to make them stars (despite what some sections of the media think) but I'm sure that doesn't bother them. British Sea Power had already produced my two favourite albums of the decade - I think they've just made it three.24 January, 2008 - 21:09 — D.C. Harrison