Infinite Shuffle

October 30, 2011

88 – British Sea Power

Filed under: B, England — assman41 @ 4:13 pm

After recently hearing one of their songs randomly on my iPod, it dawned upon me that I had totally neglected the band British Sea Power.

They first entered my consciousness in 2008, when a friend burned me a copy of Do You Like Rock Music? At the time, I had assumed it was their debut, but I now know it was actually the third full-length release from the five-piece indie group based in Brighton, England.

The band has actually been around for more than a decade, forming in 2000, and has put out five albums, including 2009’s Man of Aran (an instrumental soundtrack to a documentary) and Valhalla Dancehall earlier this year.

When I decided I needed to re-acquaint myself with the group, my first stop was its Wikipedia page. According to that venerable site, critics have likened the band to such seminal groups as The Cure, Joy Division, the Pixies and Arcade Fire.

However, immediately after I started listening to their 2003 debut, The Decline of British Sea Power, the one band whose influence seemed unmistakable was Pyschedelic Furs.

(Well, after the album’s first three tracks, which are totally punk-infused and sound nothing like the rest of the band’s catalog.)

On their mostly slow, shoegazing tracks, lead singer Yan (Scott Wilkinson) does his best impression of Furs leader Richard Butler. At times, while listening to the debut and the follow-up, 2005’s Open Season, I thought I was actually listening to a compilation of Furs B-sides.

During one of my listens, I wanted to liken Yan’s vocals to a mixture of Butler and famed singer Jarvis Cocker (Pulp and solo). But I’ve since dropped the Cocker comparisons.

And, admittedly, the reference to The Cure isn’t totally off-base. It can be heard in several songs, especially the xylophone opening to the track “Blackout”. But, even on that track, the Furs influence is hard to ignore.

British Sea Power – Blackout

British Sea Power started to branch out musically on Do You Like Rock Music? creeping away from their post-punk roots and dabbling in more straightforward indie rock.

This is probably still their best album to date, with such strong tunes as “Waving Flags”, “Atom” and “Open the Door”.

British Sea Power – Waving Flags

Perhaps based on the strength of that album, this year’s much-anticipated follow-up doesn’t stack up quite as well. That being said, it’s still a strong record, with such solid songs as “Observe the Skies”, “We Are Sound”, “Who’s In Control?” and “Georgie Ray”.

British Sea Power – We Are Sound

In addition to putting out some quality music, British Sea Power are probably best known for their live shows — most notably their off-the-beaten-path venues.

They have played in a seaside cafe, on a ferry, in some caverns, at the highest inn in the United Kingdom, in a famous English church and at an indoor festival that included vaudeville acts.

Needless to say, it’s a band that should be seen live — something I hope to do one day.

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