What a curious band British Sea Power truly are. Here you have a band that are seemingly enthralled with nature, the countryside and rose tinted nostalgia but are also open to playing a gig on a North Sea oilrig. Their live performances sees them dressed in World War One regalia and a propensity for audience bound propulsion would do any grenade worth its salt proud. If this sort of behaviour sets the bait it’s their song writing talent that will have you coming back for more. Their debut ‘The Decline Of British Sea Power’ was an understated gem full of camouflaged melodies that ensured that the Brighton based quartet would have their hands full to build on the promise. ‘Open Season’ may lack the weighty numbers like ‘Heavenly Waters’ and ‘Lately’ that so illuminated their debut but British Sea Power have crafted an affable, inviting and memorable follow-up. Here the tunes are less confrontational, the melody is openly divulged and the hit is almost immediate. That’s not to say that after a few spins that the whole thing becomes listless, as there is an unmistakable panache in the way the songs are put together.
‘Open Season’ could easily be a greatest hits collection such is the innumerable pointers to greatness on show. Take ‘Honeycomb’ which sees frontman Yan sporting what sounds like a slight head cold. His nasally afflicted vocals summon the wherewithal to turn a warm chorus into an intimate experience. The chord playing, keyboard dashes and punchy drums all add up to a hugely dramatic event. Yan can sound like a young Bowie and there is an edge to his singing as if the words are digging into his cheekbones. On ‘How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?’ the singers delivery descends from rational to chaotic within the space of a couple of minutes. Thankfully these unsettling experiences are countered when the band veer closer to pure pop like on the incandescent ‘The Land Beyond’. Straight-forward gorgeous melodies meet a melancholic string section that’ll tug at your heartstrings.
British Sea Power oft stay clear, in as much as is possible, of the generic theme of boy meets girl. Instead under the guise of chirping birds Yan implores all to ‘Drape yourself in greenery, Become part of the scenery’ over and over again on ‘North Hanging Rock’. While this could all sound about as interesting as watching said greenery grow the band deliver such a heated brew of delicious sounds the singer could be waxing about an oily stage from the previous night and we’d still be transfixed. ‘Oh Larsen B’ is undoubtedly the best song ever written about a continental ice shelf. The bass structures are predictably towering and aloof and Yan does his best to sound serious when he begs the monolith not to fall on him. ‘True Adventures’ may appear at the end but it sticks out like a sore thumb even if it’s covered in a rich blend of flavoursome toffee. The ideas splatter about like a fan with plastic streamers. While so many jolting arrangements might seem contradictory on a single tune, a couple of listens reveals a composition that is perfectly coherent. This is about as challenging as ‘Open Season’ gets, elsewhere wholesome tunes like ‘Be Gone’ flitter about like young cottontails.
‘Open Season’ flows like a mountain stream, its ideas are clear, melodies pour freely and its stock cleverly navigates against the current mob of new-wave sycophants. Paradoxically, from time to time the album feels as if it has emerged from an earlier decade. That said this collection sees the band take a giant leap forward in sales potential. There is very little (aside from ‘True Adventures’) to startle those who dine on the top 40 and with some careful promotion British Sea Power could soon stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Snow Patrol or Coldplay. ‘Open Season’ is an engaging listen from start to finish and British Sea Power seem to be well on their way to becoming one of this century’s true contenders. KD
British Sea Power – North Hanging Rock
More free tracks from ‘Open Season’ here.