Thursday, September 04, 2008

British Sea Power

I've been listening off and on to the new Britsih Sea Power album that came out earlier this year ("Do You Like Rock Music?") and it consistently leaves me perplexed.

On the one hand, it's got a lot of great, very straight ahead, epicly rocking songs in that Arcade Fire sort of tradition (and as a quick aside, I've been REALLY into those guys lately. I think in retrospect I should have made Neon Bible my #1 last year). But since they're Brits, they also mix in some My Bloody Valentine sound, which is just fine by me.

But on the other hand, there's something very - I don't know - calculated about the sound. Part of what makes Arcade Fire so appealing (and, to some people, UNappealing) is their earnestness. I think if you're going to go all epic about the plight of our modern world you've got to at least sound like you believe it, man. British Sea Power have a lot of times where the songs are great songs, but you can almost feel them conciously trying to capture that kind of sound. That's not to say Arcade Fire don't put a lot into capturing that sound - but they make it sound natural, which is, to me, key.

So I'm torn. I like the songs, and think it could be one of the best albums of the year. But sometimes I feel like the influences are so powerful and so evident that it almost makes me wonder if there's really any point in even listening to this. I just recently got over listening exclusively to noise rock for a few months, and I think the derivative nature of albums like this partly drove me there.

This is getting pretty rambling, so I leave you with two questions and a song:

1) Anyone here have this album and have thoughts?
2) If a band is so clearly copying a sound, what's the use?
3) "Waving Flags":

I feel like I'm stacking the deck unfairly against them by including the most Arcade Fire-y song there, so here is "Atom" - undoubtedly the highlight from the album and a great straight ahead rocker:


drischord said...
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drischord said...

If you ask me, "Waving Flags" sounds even more like the Postal Service than Arcade Fire. That vocal melody is lifted straight out of "Such Great Heights." He even has a bit of Ben Gibbard breathiness when he sings.

But you're right that they've adopted this Arcade Fire sensibility-- especially in their production values-- that wasn't heard on their previous records.

The other band that comes to mind is The Wedding Present (or anything involving David Gedge.) This is much more true for "Atom." (By the way, if you don't already own Seamonsters by the Wedding Present, you should acquire it within the next 24 hours.)

I am somewhat indifferent toward British Sea Power. Their songs certainly aren't offensive, but I've never heard anything from them (dating back 3 albums) that I can't get elsewhere. I guess if you were looking for the production values of Arcade Fire plus the punk-turned-Britpop energy of the Wedding Present, this band might be a good marriage of the two. But on the other hand, I think their lyrics are weaker than both of those bands' and the guy is nowhere near the vocalist that David Gedge is.

Overall, I'd say BSP is enjoyable but inconsequential. Just my opinion, for what it's worth. (BTW, I would not apply the "inconsequential" tag to Arcade Fire, as much as some members of this blog might argue otherwise. Their influence on this very album can stand as evidence.)

Via Chicago said...

For the most part I'm with you, and the word inconsequential is a good one. I listen to them and I think, "Hey this is pretty good", but I never say to myself "I should go listen to British Sea Power", you know?