Surely it is the aim of most acts to be both successful and unique at the same time. British Sea Power come closer than most to this aim. Granted, their sound has been smoothed round the edges over the years but few pull off that combination of anthemic indie, post rock, punk and national identity with such aplomb. The group appealed to their most devoted fans by releasing a sequence of EPs, with many of these songs now appearing in more streamlined form for a new long player called ‘Machineries Of Joy’.
The first three songs are like a microcosm of British Sea Power’s career thus far, taking on post rock, post punk and Echo And The Bunnymen-esque epic indie. The title track settles into a Krautrock groove. Next comes the “shouty punk one”, with Yan shireking and caterwauling whilst guitars riff like the Manics’ ‘Australia’ through the album’s most visceral track, ‘K-Hole’. Then there’s “the quiet one” in the shape of ‘Hail Holy Queen’, where Hamilton brings in his underrated vocal to the party and his gentle style is perfectly suited to this sophisticated and elegant song. Both frontmen team up for the excellent ‘Loving Animals’, featuring typically quirky subject matter and an arrangement which is both edgy and catchy.
Eyebrows will be raised when a track unimaginatively entitled ‘What You Need The Most’ appears but the lyrics are full of references to glassware and this being British Sea Power you wonder whether these are metaphors or they really are in love with a Pyrex jug. The jury may still be out on that one and a couple of other songs on the slightly weaker second half, ‘Spring Has Sprung’ and ‘A Light Above Descending’, seem to lack the usual BSP hooks. Otherwise, ‘Radio Goddard’ is another affectionate tribute and ‘When A Warm Wind Blows Through The Grass’ ends the record in a chilly, mysterious way to confirm that this Brighton act are still thirsty to experiment.
Half a dozen albums in (if you include their instrumental ‘Man Of Aran’ soundtrack), British Sea Power have still yet to really put a foot wrong, even if none of their albums could ever be regarded as classics. Yet, like a site of national heritage, they offer reliable and consistent pieces of work which can make one proud to be British.
Echo And The Bunnymen, Manic Street Preachers