British Sea Power‘s debut album was a masterpiece. No arguments. The Decline Of British Sea Power was an highly unique album made by a highly unique band – after all there aren’t many other bands who draw their inspirations from (among other things) Czech architecture, the countryside and Field Marshall Montgomery. This, combined with singer Yan’s idiosyncratic vocal style and the subtle referencing of Joy Division and The Cure, left me panting for more British Sea Power since 2001 and at last, at long last, it is here.
And there’s no sign of ‘difficult second album’ syndrome here. A subtle evolution of sound is evident though, from the darker, more spiritual debut to this, a decidedly lighter listen that draws immediate links with Echo & The Bunnymen.
The general sound finds its most suitable description in the country landscapes that provide BSP with much of their inspiration: windswept, open and organic – you can even hear birdsong in the background of several tracks (no really, you can).
First track and first single It Ended On An Oily Stage ought make you sit up and give full attention to this album – it’s one of the most immediate songs they’ve ever released, which sets a general trend for the 11 tracks that follow it.
Other possible single releases include Will I Ever Find My Way Home?, which has a Libertines-esque rickety jingle-jangle coursing through its second half and Please Stand Up which simply is a summer’s anthem in tune and lyric: “It seemed as if the streets had melted / Seemed as if the air was scented / I wish all of time could be like this”. There should be more than enough here to keep BSP in singles for a while, so we should get to hear plenty of their very highly regarded B-sides.
The album’s best moments are in its less radio friendly though. To Get To Sleep’s satirical lyrics for example, and the five-and-a-half minute long Oh Larsen B – the effortless standout of the album. It takes its name and inspiration from an Antarctic ice shelf; beginning with a bassline that has Peter Hook’s influence stamped on its forehead, before adding plentiful layers of guitar and stunning lyrics: “Like saw-blades through the air, your winter overture / Cut through everything and now we’re not so sure / Oh Larsen B / Oh fall on me”. It left me leaping for the ‘Repeat track’ button.
The pace of the album is a little unrelenting though and the second track Be Gone is a slight disappointment. Yet this only barely tarnishes the quality of Open Season. What British Sea Power have achieved here is a second album of considerable beauty and eccentric fascination. To quote a lyric from Victorian Ice it is “totally wicked and equally ace”, and is certain to be one of my favourite albums of 2005.