Music

British Sea Power: Open Season

Raphaël Costambeys-Kempczynski

Probably the first time anadiplosis has ever been used in a rock review. But that's the kind of band British Sea Power want to be.


British Sea Power

Open Season

Label: Rough Trade
US Release Date: 2005-04-05
UK Release Date: 2005-04-04
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Britain is an accumulation of tribes. Therefore, you support the football team down the road from where you were brought up. Geographical location is everything. Championing a team because they are successful is definitely dodgy (just look at all those Manchester United fans). This is the British way, which means I'm left with Brighton and Hove Albion, close to relegation from the second division -- I refuse to pander to the way fickle sponsorship deals cut up the English football league. Interestingly though, Brighton's shirt sponsors are Skint Records, the people who have Norman Cook on their books. And where does the Fatboy live? Brighton. Along with Nick Cave, Paul McCartney, The Levellers, and Emma Bunton. Is it any wonder Brighton is the cultural capital of England? I mean, come on, Emma Bunton!

So if you're an English band that doesn't fancy London or Manchester, you move to Brighton. And that's precisely what British Sea Power did. And being your basic English bloke, I think 'great!' another band to champion. First off, it's a bloody brilliant name. Secondly, they have a wacky stage presence complete with military uniforms, camouflage and examples of taxidermy. And then there was the roll of their noisy rock first album The Decline of British Sea Power, with the re-recorded single "Remember Me" that kicked arse "increment by increment". I was looking forward to their second album release. A bit more polished, a bit more mature, and they would become a hell of a lot bigger.

Two and a bit years down the line and we have Open Season. So obviously, there they were, walking around the countryside, cocked rifles over their arms... before shooting themselves in the foot! Because that's what this record is, a shot in the flipping metatarsus. What went wrong? What's going on with English music at the moment?!

If you believe the hype, BSP are Cumbria shoved through a speaker. Cumbria (the Lake District) is where three-fifths of the band come from and as the song "How Will I Ever Find My Way Home" suggests, this album wants to be all about "watching a storm cloud form over the hills". Wordsworth eat your heart out. Sorry, I'm being unfair. One thing I want to praise BSP for is their lyrical risk-taking. Take the opening track "It Ended On an Oily Stage" -- not only do they manage to scan "elegiac" but there's also anadiplosis with "I headed for the coastalry / Regions of mind". And there's no denying the imagery echoes through the band's name.

This is one of the better numbers. But I was disappointed by Yan's lack of vocal oomph. The problem is that all the songs are characterised by this wannabe ethereal whispering. According to Noble the guitarist, the vocals were recorded outside at night with "just a microphone in the courtyard". Surely they should have stuck to the studio where Mads Bjerke the producer could tell them to leave the poncing around to Mercury Rev.

The result is a real mixed bag. A third of the tracks sound distinctly like an edgeless Pulp. These include "Be Gone", "Like a Honeycomb", "The Land Beyond". "To Get to Sleep" even has Pulp-ish subject-matter: "Propylene across your eyes / To take me to the land of sighs." Then there are songs like "Please Stand Up" that sound like a weary Power of Dreams.

This is not to say that the songs are inherently bad but there's no denying they let us down. The potential is definitely there, but I can't help feeling that BSP have taken a step back from the promise of their first outing. But that's not to say that there aren't enjoyable moments here. "Victorian Ice" is a gem of a pop song with the exquisitely English line "Totally wicked and equally ace" and its reference to longshore drift.

Romantic imagery abounds in this record. In true pantheistic fashion God is to be found in a Wiltshire field and nature is the divine landscape of human emotion. Thus, the break up of the Larsen B ice shelf becomes an intriguing metaphor: "Oh Larsen B, oh you can fall on me / Oh Larsen B, desalinate the barren sea." This track is closer to the BSP I like with its rock-lick and simple guitar motif. "True Adventures" offers a fun bit of cheesy experimental prog-rock. As the bass kicks in you can definitely feel Pink Floyd collecting their pension. Before Yan does his Jarvis-Cocker-cum-Jonathan-Donahue that is.

All in all, this would have made a good EP. What BSP need to do first off is get rid of the birds chirping between songs, although they can keep the seagulls on "True Adventures" for obvious reasons (yes, you've guessed it, Brighton and Hove Albion are known as the Seagulls). Then they need to get back to the gnashing rock they can be excellent at. You do expect more from a record mixed by Bill Price. But as it stands, this is not the album that will turn the Long Man of Wilmington, the fertility effigy on the South Downs, into a real man. It has no chalk penis.

4
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Books

'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.

Music

Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.

Reviews

DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.

Film

On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.

Music

Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Music

Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.

Music

100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Interviews

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.