One could easily argue that Brighton's British Sea Power is a band out of time. Seemingly gone are the days of bands that acquire small, borderline obsessive, contained sets of fans that exist in a bubble of music and sleeve art, dissecting lyrics like they were Yeats. In today's Indie scene any band with a hint of promise is championed by ambulance chasers with the apparent main intention of being the first on the scene with a report back from the front lines. Soon, they belong to anyone with skinny trousers and clownish sunglasses (which means practically everyone aged 18-26 in the Urban center of your choice). iPod eavesdroppers everywhere can spy that even the most conservative looking youth has the new Clockcleaner on there, nestled amongst Beyonce, Young Joc, Beirut, and all of our friends from Canada. BSP on the other hand, belong to the anoraks, the kids who have to have it on vinyl, and who decode which design movement is on display with each 7" sleeve.
Do You Like Rock Music? succeeds the warmly (but only just) received Open Season (2005), a record that had some sections of the fan base claiming it to be a timid neutering of the extreme eccentricities that came with the debut The Decline Of British Sea Power (2003). And while this record succeeds in reintroducing the more unique qualities of the early stuff, it also forges new territory and sounds. Some have mentioned an Arcade Fire influence when in fact their Canadian contemporaries are big fans and it can be argued that they found huge success by taking cues from a sound and aesthetic that BSP had built years previously.
With three producers involved (Howard Bilerman, drummer on Arcade Fire's debut Funeral, Graham Sutton (Jarvis Cocker, Bark Psychosis) and Efrim Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and several recording locations including a disused water tower in Sussex and the Czech Forest it is no surprise that the 12 tracks offer a diverse set of moods; the crashing space rock of "Atom", the mantra like opener "All In It" and it's sister closer "We Close Our Eyes", the majestic anthem "Lights Out For Darker Skies" and the meaty Stooges-esque "A Trip Out" are very sonically different, yet unfurl with the same sense of heroic purpose.
New influences and sounds have crept in as well, namely the slow-gaze, epic instrumental vibe of "The Great Skua". A beautifully chiming soundscape, this is the calm before the storm of "Atom", a track that tenderly suggests that "You're heart is a mess/You're head is a mess/You're house is a mess" before the storm of Buzzcocks guitars kick in and level everything out. Serenity follows with the last section of the album; a trio of sweeter missives including the Hamilton (Bass, Co-Writer, master of thousand yard stare) sung "Open The Door", a stately thing of beauty that asks " Are You Gonna Live Or Die? / Are You Gonna Be Alright?".
Taken as a whole, DYLRM successfully combines the fried intensity of the early recordings with the more serene, accessible sounds of Open Season to create something that might be an improvement on both. A sermon like quality radiates throughout, creating a tension that is palpable, whether in the loud cuts or the more quiet, mood pieces. This is a record that begs to be digested as a larger work, as each track shows a certain intent and level of importance (save for the 30 seconds of silence that introduces the closing "We Close Our Eyes" perhaps). Everything sounds better as a piece of the larger pie, with the chant of "All In It/ And We Close Our Eyes" book ending the 10 frazzled, joyous tracks in the middle.
All signs point to a big 2008 for British Sea Power. Early UK reviews have been uniformly enthusiastic, with many heralding DYLRM as an early contender for record of the year. I suppose it would be nice to see them get their due as a British treasure and get a taste of much deserved recognition in the States. A rumored three month US Tour will give them a chance to bring songs that reference ice shelves, Polish plumbers, and "Czech Ecstasy" to the heartland. For now, their latest effort is absurd, over blown, dramatic, and a thing of strange beauty.
MP3 Download - "Atom" (Edit)