April 11, 2005

British Sea Power "Open Season"

To this American, it seems as if the English have a love/hate thing with 'rock & roll.' American rock is often dismissed as passe and possessing a certain amount of machismo and sexism (okay, so that's not really unique to Britons, but still, work with me, please). Yet, in an odd twist, the English also have a fascination with the genre, giving the world bands like The Libertines, The Darkness and The Killers, and they also seem to love bands like The Strokes, The Kills and White Stripes. Go figure. But the British--who often allow their music to fall victim to fashion--seem to like their music a little bit smarter; their bands offering a seeming intelligence that American bands lack.

Ditto British Sea Power. Their reputation was sealed by images of the band performing live in naval outfits and having a general turn-of-the-century feel to their releases. Their debut album, The Decline And Fall of British Sea Power, was a massive tome; at times it was thick and heavy, not unlike Moby Dick; it was an okay record, but it just seemed to demand too much of the listener's time, while not really making a definitive statement. The album was a bit disappointing, because it didn't seem to highlight the band's songwriting skills--or its abilities as a powerful live act.

Luckily, their second album, Open Season, is a much more organized and focused record. Touring and the maturity that comes with playing live have certainly worked wonders for the band, because Open Season is the sound of a young band finally finding its voice. Though "It Ended On An Oily Stage" starts the album with a slightly generic guitar lick, it doesn't hurt that said guitar lick is extremely catchy. Lead singer Yan is in fine voice; his singing is strong, and overall the band's sound is fresh and exciting. Yan's singing is occasionally reminiscent of David Bowie, and songs like "Please Stand Up" and "To Get To Sleep" certainly have a feel that will remind you of the Thin White Duke, but they're no glam band. They mix up their more upbeat moments with some really great slower songs; "North Hanging Rock" and "Victorian Ice" are lovely numbers that gives Open Season a nice balance that was somewhat lacking with their debut.

British Sea Power could have easily fallen victim to the fashionable rock band trap. Open Season is simply enjoyable. It's grooving, it's smart and it's beautiful; it's obvious that British Sea Power set a simple goal--of making a great British rock record--and the mission is accomplished. What's more successful than that? If a great record is its own reward, then British Sea Power should be quite happy with the booty of their victory.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.britishseapower.co.uk
Label Website: http://www.roughtradeamerica.com

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