Music Reviews
Open Season

British Sea Power Open Season

(Rough Trade) Rating - 9/10

Second album syndrome, eh? It's truly fucked up many a band. Older readers may want to use the Knack as an example here. Does anyone remember the second Frankie Goes To Hollywood LP?

The Stone Roses, of course, took years to knock out a great second album but that was long enough that eventually people stopped caring and liked Oasis instead.

It's only been a couple since British Sea Power presented us with their classic debut album for the ages. Some of us have been waiting for Open Season, and time brings expectation that so often leads to disappointment, such is human nature. Well, the good news is that letdown has had it's head firmly letdown in the lake of happiness. They haven't treaded water or tried to repeat what made The Decline Of... so fucking good, they've topped it.

For all I loved it, the debut felt almost like a collection of singles to a small degree - six of it's 11 songs featured on other individual releases - where as Open Season works brilliantly as one piece that demands to be played all the way through in one sitting.

That's not to say there are not stand out moments: Recent single It Ended On An Oily Stage has the air of 1984 peak Bunnymen in it's surging guitar lines and epic themes of possibly finding God in Wiltshire. Please Stand Up, an obvious contender for follow up single, is a glorious three minute rush in which singer Yan muses on motorway exit gates and the constant departure lounges that become part of life for the touring band.

Those who tune in hoping for similar chaos found on early songs like Apologies To Insect Life, Favours In The Beetroot Field or even The Spirit Of St. Louis may well be disappointed. Open Season is more akin to The Lonely and Blackout, but with keyboard player Eammon contributing to this album, the textures and sound feel much richer than before.

Gorgeous moments abound throughout. Like a Honeycomb is sweetly slow, Victorian Ice is jaunty and O Larsen B must surely rank as the best song about an ice formation released in recent history. It's here that those Joy Division comparisons that have followed them around for so long (somewhat mysteriously, to this listener) finally gain some credence - Hamilton's bassline indeed has a similar flavour to those provided by Peter Hook on Closer.

Indeed it's Hamilton who gets the final word on the album, not before he's given his vocal chords an airing on How Will I Ever Find My Way Home? and The Land Beyond. It's nice to have a different voice to add variety, his voice differing somewhat from his siblings and unlike Noel Gallagher's often pointless warbling, it adds a lot to the overall picture.

His True Adventures really is a marvellous way to put Open Season to bed. Swooping along in-between half-whispered lyrics, it's dramatic, touching and brilliant and proves two points: British Sea Power are not only the best band around, they're also the best songwriters. Essential.