Brilliantine Mortality


Press: The Decline of British Sea Power reviews

NME

They're an odd bunch, British Sea Power. At a time when most rock bands are trying to figure which glue to sniff, these four young men kit themselves out in WW1 military uniform, litter their stage with beech leaves and exude a passion for the architecture of eastern Europe.

Many have welcomed BSP into their hearts, but overall opinion remains split. After all, one man's 'cerebral' and 'obscure' is another man's 'daftly-named weirdos twatting around onstage with twigs and shit'. The final verdict was always going to hinge on this much-anticipated debut record, where we could judge them on the merit of their music rather than on their neat sideline in Heron chic.

The first things that hit you are the jagged and unruly spasms of guitar noise. Chainsaw-wielding riffs slice open the brain stem of 'Apologies To Insect Life', with an 'Unknown Pleasures'-era Joy Division assault so vicious that even the rattling drums and frenzied yelps take a back seat. Dig a little deeper and we enter their melancholic world that dwells frequently on notions of mortality and visions of a world long gone. 'Lately' asks, "The past it is a foreign country/How can we go there?" whereas 'The Lonely' sees pianos swooning around a chorus of, "I drink all day and play by night/Upon my Casio/Electric piano".

It's not until 'Carrion', however, that they reveal their masterpiece. The sound of a shipwrecked Echo And The Bunnymen navigating their way around your heart, Yan uses his strange half-whisper to depict the lapping of ebbing tides and gorgeous undertows whilst swirling backing vocals get engulfed in raging waves of guitar. It's truly wondrous, the crowning moment of an intriguing and frequently dazzling debut record.

Of course, they don't always manage to make that essential emotional connection, and even repeated spins won't stop tracks like 'Something Wicked' and 'Remember Me' leaving you cold. But such flaws don't speak of sloppiness, more of a band tongue-tied by the weight of weird and wonderful things they want to express. Like we said, BSP are an odd bunch: out of place, out of time, and quite possibly out of their minds. But given time to explore the depths of this record, they're also often out of this world.

8/10.


Tim Jonze


The Guardian

A Brighton-based, Cumbrian-hued quartet who make windswept and drizzled art rock abundant with war imagery doesn't sound a bundle of laughs. Yet British Sea Power's slightly camp, wholly menacing, startlingly audacious debut is unlike anything you'll hear this year.

Looking beyond tried and tested beat group influences to the dark and dismal early 1980s sound of the Psychedelic Furs and Joy Division, their retro claustrophobia collides with very modern, utterly stinging confusion. From the ominous, operatic chorus of Men Together Today to the taut and messy 13-minute epic Lately, British Sea Power vault over complacency.

Singer Yan's breathless vocals - Marilyn Monroe meets Marilyn Manson - are swamped by a sea of screeching, nagging guitars on Apologies To Insect Life, his clever words and imagery reduced to a pained yelp by the speeding rhythm. Military drumrolls fight against soft keyboards, heavy guitars try to drown out snatches of electronica, and all the time the tension between lofty lyricism and posturing musical simplicity grows. British Sea Power will fight them on beaches - and they might just win.

Betty Clarke


Playlouder

Moment of truth then. We've never denied that British Sea Power were one of the most distinctive, eccentric, and utterly, well, powerful combos we've had the good fortune to encounter, but thus far they've consistently failed to deliver on that promise on record, hence their total absence from the PlayLouder records of the year (whereas, if we'd been judging live bands, they would've been in most scribes' top ten, easy). Indeed, there've been times when we've had to wonder if the stuffed animals weren't having more influence on their sound than we realised...

But no more! Since, as you've probably gathered by those approving four heads wabbling about above this review, the Brighton brigade have finally nailed it in the studio, and not a minute too soon. The opening few tracks are a positive blur - 'Favours In The Beetroot Fields' is far too good a title to give a track that doesn't even get to the 80-second mark, but there's an admirable quality to their sense of urgency - but the double whammy of 'Men Together Today' and 'Apologies to Insect Life' is one of the more breathtaking album openers of the year, with Yan howling "Oh Fyodor, you are the most attractive man I know" in lusty-if-wholly-untrustworthy tones as guitars smash around his oblivious frame. He's in terrific form throughout, as it goes, pitching himself in a similar exciting district to the haunted ruminations of Ian Curtis and the dark theatrical splendour of Pete Murphy, though, lest we forget, the Power were sending out post-punk missives some way before a number of the revivalists that have helped illuminate the last six months. Similarly, most of 'The Decline...' (grrrreat name, by the way, chaps!) occupies decidedly sinister territory - they don't include tracks called 'Fear Of Drowning' and 'Carrion' for nothing, y'know.

What has changed, though, is their willingness to let the outside world in. The original recording of 'Remember Me', for example, was a claustrophobic and vagely half-hearted endeavour that tarnished much of its towering shine, yet here it throbs anthemically and marches domineeringly across sun-baked fields. In short, it sounds like it does on stage. Rah! And it's far from alone in its quantum leaping; 'A Wooden Horse' hints that at least one of the quartet's hearts have leapt to the summery thrills of dEUS' 'Little Arithmetics' and the great 'Blackout' rides on waves of cruel piano like Satan in a sleigh with Coldplay as his huskies. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention 'Lately', which hangs around for a good quarter of an hour coming so close to beautiful collapse that it's practically got its own gravitational pull, soundtracked by an all-too-convincing emotional freefall. Basically, it's the album they'd always promised us they'd make; consider 'The Decline...' British Sea Power's entrance pass to the ranks of the truly mighty.

Iain Moffat


Drowned in Sound

Like getting tanked up on Cremola Foam (whatever happened to that?), Chupa Chups and those sherbet flying saucer sweet things which melt; or like - oh I dunno - just strolling though seaside towns; or the Scottish west coast. On a sugar high. On a cocktail of sugar, alcopops, and cheap wine. Watch out for the jellyfish washed on the shore. Get fucked with British Sea Power, for this album will give you that feeling. Mixing those cocktails and mixing it gooooood, this is damn messy punk mixed with '80s British indie.

If Echo and the Bunnymen hadn't discovered string sections, they might still sound a bit like this. All hail British Sea Power, the UK's most pretentious band, for they are mighty. They are the classic Rough Trade band; could've sprung up from any time since 1981 and still sound the same. Maybe that makes them a little timeless.

'The Decline Of...' is a fully-ace debut containing hummable tunes ('Remember Me', 'Something Wicked') and full-on guitar abuse ('Favours In The Beetroot Fields'). It sounds like any number of 'classic' bands who probably never made more than one album and probably never sold much more than that. So what is it about BSP which has already incited such fandom round Europe already? (have you seen how many fansites they have?)

They're pretentious. They're weird. They play gigs in odd places. They have their own clothing range. They plunder deep, often spooky agit-pop music. And they have a stuffed owl on stage every time they play. You LIKE this? You freaks.

Putting my finger on exactly why I like BSP doesn't seem to be forthcoming at the moment other than they're easily one of the UK's most unique and wonderful bands. This album did something weird to me. Ah, the rare breed; a band to completely fall in love with despite the singer looking a bit like Bez crossed with Ian Curtis. And there's the fact that they're called British Sea Power. What a stupid name.

Adie Nunn


Filter Mag

You don't need a ticket or passport to enter the ephemeral world of BSP. All you need is an open heart and a belief that bravery exists. In a stifling world of shrink-wrapped pop where albums are drawn up by committee and harnessed to a Machiavellian marketing machine, BSP are a breath of much needed air. As the album unfolds you are drawn deeper into a world where rare birds swoop and dive and nature exists alongside the urban decay of the twenty first century.

Their musical reference points can be mapped out, but to reel out a list of names would be a pointless exercise because this is quite simply the most original album you will buy this year. With songs as sublime as 'Something Wicked', 'Fear of Drowning' and 'Carrion' you know that they are the band to fall in love with. Once you have lived in the wonderfully unique world of BSP you will never want to leave.

Julian Mash


Aversion.com

The British Navy may not be what it was in its glory days, but more important to the music fan, British Rock Power has also suffered a severe decline since the glory days of Madchester-styled Britpop. The country that one produced the likes of The Smiths, Joy Division and The Cure, now can only muster the alternative anthems of cold-blooded iconoclasts like Radiohead or Coldplay. Forget high-minded dirges to mind-fuck the intelligentsia: What happened to the glory days of British depression and angst? Are they, like the Admirals of old, relegated to fond memories and clumsy Hollywood versions like 24 Hour Party People and Master Commander?

British Sea Power brings back the glory days of British rock with a moody, guitar-propelled sound that takes the better part of The Smiths, Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen and makes it its own. While the act doesn't dabble around with the overt gloom of its present-day compatriots - the powerful, reverbed-up guitars alone could send Interpol fleeing back to its Joy Division fakebook - a nagging sense of overcast guilt lurks around The Decline of British Sea Power and brings the style/substance combo punch back into the limelight.

A pair of buzzing guitars shines a bit of light across a dismal, single-minded bass line that's one part Joy Division and one part post-millennial rock revival in "Apologies to Insect Life," although its guitars make a nod toward much more energetic rock. "Carrion," follows the same format, with a track that sounds like a Joy Division that's been drinking protein shakes and hitting the weights every day before work. "Something Wicked" lets off on the throttle with Jonathan Fire Eater-esque rhythms and sparse guitar work, and "Fear of Drowning" confirms the act's able to keep the creeped-out atmosphere rolling even when it backs off the loud guitars.

If there's a band out there that can combine British Sea Power's flair for style - this record simply drips with a cooler-than-you atmosphere - with its flair for powerful songwriting, the record labels don't know about it. A top-notch debut if ever there was one.

Matt Schild


Delusions of Adequacy

The opening minutes of British Sea Power's self-defined "classic" The Decline of British Sea Power, with its swelling canticle reaching a near religious apex, could easily be confused with the latest release from the once Enigma-lauded Gregorian monks. And before you can even pretend to get bored, the bass ticks off, the drums crawl from out of the closet, and lead vocalist Yan screams, "I fear you are the most attractive man," except "man" sounds more like "main" in that cool, God-I-wish-I-was-British kind of way. The surf guitars in "Apologies to Insect Life" groove in a sexual-but-not-slutty manner, and Yan's occasional hiccuped "Yeahs!" successfully garnish the mixture of dance and noise. "Favours in the Beetroot Fields" picks up similarly with a punked-out beat and guitars that rise and fall with Yan's vocal intonations.

British Sea Power, contrary to their album title, are steadily gaining momentum, especially with the foaming teeth of the British press clamped firmly round the band's wrist. They've got the sound (The Queen is Dead-era Britpop with a penchant for Ian Curtis and Frank Black), they've got the mystique (like Yan, all BSP's members prefer the mono-eponymic: Hamilton on bass, organ, guitar, and piano; Noble on guitar and piano; Wood on drums), and they've got the HOOK (those adorable World War I outfits they sport, all military green and Snoopy scarves, oh they're so precious!). It all adds up to a very convincing, Mojo-cover-friendly look that'll have all those bang-heavy, depressed-but-still-sexual, Jarvis Cocker-starved British ladies shaking their bums and weeping big empathetic tears.

Oh, and the music is really, really, really good. The Ray Bradbury-influenced "Something Wicked" decreases the tempo established by the two scorching openers but lays down layers of organ and lines like, "Your works of nature are unnatural" and "It starts with love of foliage / And ends in camouflage." "Remember Me" is the track where BSP's Pixie-fellatio really becomes pronounced, given Noble's angular guitar, Wood's snickering snare work, and Yan's rambling, rolling lyrical delivery (occasionally releasing that much-coveted squeak that both Black and Morrissey had perfected).

With "Fear of Drowning," the boys start living up to their namesake, opening with the distant sounds of crashing surf and effecting a loud/soft guitar with underlain tinkling piano that evoke images of sea foam building up around one's ankles. "Lonely" contains some of Yan's best lyrical work. "I'll drink all day and play by night," he croons, "Upon my Casio, electric piano... Just like Liberace, I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffs." His whispering, breathy vocals convey a musical impact just as convincing as the band's instruments do, all while managing to avoid the stigma a Liberace reference might carry.

The epic you knew was going to be somewhere on this album, "Lately" (which clocks in just shy of 14 minutes), actually makes its appearance in the middle rather than the end. Brimming with seemingly improvised guitar chords and a garbage disposal of echoing noise-rock, the listener manages finds comfort in the pillowy-softness of Yan's vocal cradle. "I've been stranded here for so long," he wails with real urgency and purpose. The song is majestic and inspirational on all scales - an indication of this fledgling band's potential for future greatness. Given the potency of their debut, British Sea Power's Decline can safely be interpreted as a marvelous exercise in self-deprecation.

Andy Hawkins


No Rip Cord

Its begins with a 41 second song titled Men Together Today, which sounds like a group of monks in hymn. It's followed by Apologies To The Insect Life, a more frantic 2 minutes 47 seconds you may not hear this year. This is the world of British Sea Power. You may not need me to tell you just how good they are - if you've been to one of their live shows chances are you'll already know. They've even got (sort of) celebrity fans in the form of Jeremy Vine and Julian Cope.

I might as well tell you now the only small disappointment is that this album doesn't really deal with the decline of the original British Sea Power throughout the late 20th Century. Of course, maybe it does but I'm too obvious to see it. What it does have, though, are songs of subtle beauty like Something Wicked which in a just world would be heard on Radio 1 every day and would see B.S.P. doing their thing on Top Of The Pops. However, we live in a cruel world and so have to make do.

It's a trap of many bands to jump styles all over a debut album, searching for the one that suits them to the ground. Over three songs here - Flowers In The Beetroot Field, Something Wicked and previous single Remember Me - we hear a lot of different sounds, but are never left in any doubt that they flow together with such fire and skill that you feel they could knock out a freeform jazz number and still sound like the same band. Lyrical themes through prove some hard to pin down, though the band claim the album alludes to "Morrissey/Marr, Scapa Flow, David Byrne and Lonnie Donegan" which can be taken anyway you want to. A sense of humour and an open mind may well be essential skills to have prepared before listening.

This could go on, but there's no need. The band chose their name well, for this is an album as British as Viz magazine and football hooligans in Burberry uniforms. It's as mad as Monty Python and melodic as Edward Elgar. The cover proclaims "British Sea Power's Classic The Decline of...". Such confidence only appears crass when it's misplaced. In this instance, it's located perfectly.

9/10.

Peter Mattinson


Popmatters

Brighton-based band British Sea Power is made up of five members: Yan on vocals (also guitarist and chief songwriter), his brother Hamilton on bass, Noble on guitar, Wood on drums, and Eamon on percussion/keyboards. They dress in WWI military uniforms (which immediately call to mind the British Guardsmen uniforms donned by '60s garage band the Palace Guard) and they definitely wear their influences on their sleeves. Which in and of itself is unremarkable -- it's just that British Sea Power seem to bear the mark of so many of them. The Smiths, the Pixies, Joy Division, David Bowie, Suede -- all are heard in ways large and small on this remarkable debut album, and yet British Sea Power come across as undeniably original at the same time.

The LP opens with a Gregorian-style men's choir on "Men Together Today", but quickly segues into the McLusky-esque, angular rocker, "Apologies to Insect Life", and the very similar sounding "Favours in the Beetroot Fields". It seems as if the album really begins, however, with "Something Wicked". Warm, Cure-style organs and breathy, forlorn vocals wrap delightfully around a syncopated repetitious chorus. The song continuously creeps into anthem territory but always hesitates just a little, and it's for the better in the end as "Something Wicked" whets the appetite for what's to come. It also contains perhaps the most clever lyric on the album: "It starts with love for foliage / And ends in camouflage". Lovely.

The rest of The Decline of British Sea Power glides along in much the same vein as "Something Wicked", with many highlights along the way, such as the rocking "Remember Me" with its perfect Brit-angst lyric: "Whatever! / We're all part of the same old bloody regime / With someone taking it out whilst you were putting it in". You're just waiting for Jarvis Cocker to yell "Alright!"

"The Lonely" and "Carrion" are further highlights, the former stating, ""I'll drink all day and play by night / Upon my Casio, electric piano / Just like Liberace I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffs . . ." However, for all of British Sea Power's seeming peculiarities there is real heart at work here. They look as if they are a band just starting to find their way and their own unique voice. Like Suede on their eponymous debut album, British Sea Power seem to be just hinting at the possibilities of what's to come and that is good news indeed as The Decline of British Sea Powerhas moments of extraordinary beauty and musical prowess. They are a young band to be reckoned with.

Everything leads up to the 13-minute epic, "Lately", and it is here that the true evidence of British Sea Power's potential for greatness lies. Starting gently and carefully with simple acoustic guitars and soft, brushed drums, it eventually explodes into grand, majestic wails of guitar and distorted shouts of indistinguishable intention. Sure to be a highlight of their live show, "Lately" is the record's climax and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is great talent at work here.

British Sea Power have the talent and vision to be a truly inspirational new guitar band. Whether they hone their craft well enough to make a significant enough leap in their future endeavors remains to be seen, but as of right now they have injected the British indie scene with real vigor and purpose. Although they have yet to release The Decline of British Sea Power in America, and have only seen fit to grace these shores tangentially, here's hoping that British Sea Power steam westward in all their glory sometime soon.

Michael Beaumont


Pitchfork

Rock and roll has always offered its harbingers an array of delivery methods. Brighton's British Sea Power consistently opt for prickly juxtapositions: they like their club stages littered with stuffed birds and bits of foliage, and their rock songs peppered with obtuse allusions and highbrow polemics. And the tension doesn't end there: BSP might sport World War I military uniforms for their notoriously weird live sets, but The Decline of British Sea Power, the band's proper full-length debut, is deliberately contemporary, a confident synthesis of punk, post-punk, and new-wave, the perfect fusion of contrived aesthetics (if you're not convinced, check the band members' curt, one-word names-- Yan, Hamilton, Noble, Wood-- or the fact that they periodically pipe in pre-recorded woodland sounds during their shows) and gut-borne energy. Much like countrymen Clinic, the onstage gimmicks aren't intended to transcend the songs; rather, they comprise an equally compelling sideshow that seems, somehow, entirely appropriate to the music.

The Decline boasts lyrical references that range from semi-accessible ("Something Wicked" pulls expectedly from Macbeth) to the near-arcane (obscured nods to Russian literature, the British Empire, and imperialist ethics). Majestic and blustery, Decline's vaguely psychedelic goth-pop can, occasionally, also sway a bit little glam: Yan's cheeky self-comparisons to Liberace ("Just like Liberace/ I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffs") and Casio name-dropping ("I'll drink all day and play all night/ On my Casio electric piano") are purposefully campy, and his whisper-gone-yowl can be fiercely sexual, even predatory. BSP repeatedly get swatted with overwrought comparisons to both Joy Division and the Pixies, but The Decline has a lot more "Stardust"-era Bowie buried in it than anyone seems ready to admit.

The sinister and lusty "Apologies to Insect Life" sees Yan layering his brash, punkish wheezes (check the hiccuped, barely pronounced shouts of "Yeah!") over Noble's harried guitar riffing, hollering an introductory, "Oh Fyodor, you are the most attractive man/ Oh Fyodor, you are the most attractive man I know." Presumably, it's all one big, freaky homage to Dostoyevsky (and no less ambiguous than one of the man's novels); what makes "Apologies" so intensely interesting is that it pits its super-cerebral strutting against straightforward, power-to-the-people punk beats.

Album opener "Men Together Today" is a sustained choral swell that lasts about a minute and a half-- hauntingly resonant, "Men" is also almost painfully misplaced, essentially irrelevant to what follows, a freestanding climax denied a proper build. Alternately, the sprawling epic "Lately" (which rolls on for nearly 14 minutes) packs in a few too many rises and collapses, shimmering on and on, a series of spectacular movements that never properly assemble into a cohesive (or coherent) whole. The album's true apex is "Fear of Drowning", which begins, appropriately, with the muted whoosh of water crashing into shore. Don't get too serene, though: what comes next is Yan cooing "Jesus fucking Christ/ Oh, God, no" over a whole mess of thick, wailing guitar. Wood's drums are the only thing staying consistent; vocals and guitars roll in and out, turbulent and jarring, a thrilling spin.

Some people are already gearing up to dismiss British Sea Power as uselessly derivative, prematurely rejecting the band as (yet another) batch of self-obsessed, post-post-punk wannabes wearing stupid outfits, a troop of hyper Echo & The Bunnymen fans who spend far too much time prancing about, and not nearly enough time defining a sound of their own. But BSP's performance art antics and throwback posturing come with a distinct set of innovations and surprises, and The Decline of British Sea Power proves that BSP have the song-power to back up their bullshit. More than just a cheeky album title or bizarre live spectacle, British Sea Power can also stir up a perfectly chilling wave.

7.7/10

Amanda Petrusich



The Stereo Effect

British Sea Power, there is no doubt, have easily won the campaign to be regarded as one of the finest live acts this land has produced in recent times. But many questioned whether the sheer bombast of onstage birdlife, flailing foliage and singer Yan's eye-popping stare could ever be replicated on two-dimensional record. And, in truth, the singles released to date never quite seemed to quite cut the mustard - they were strong, certainly, but they always lacked that indefinable something.

Until now. For, with the release of The Decline Of..., British Sea Power have firmly staked their claim to the hearts and minds of the public, warming the souls of those already allied, striking out for new territories among those as yet unfamiliar.

Where so many of their guitar-wielding contemporaries either thump out songs of an almost wilful idiocy or perform formulaic appeals to the mass taste through generic indie anthem and ballad, British Sea Power are unashamed to demonstrate that their aesthetic and song writing have their roots upon a higher plane. And so it goes... After the monastic chant of the opening "Men Together Today", "Apologies to Insect Life" and "Favours in the Beetroot Fields" form up for an opening barrage of post-punk, raucous simplicity - the easy stuff is over with swiftly, before British Sea Power's true soul is exposed...

For next up is "Something Wicked", an organ-laden beauty of a song with a stout chested chorus and lyrics... well, you can't get much more Sea Power than "the lake was clear as crystal, the best tea I ever had/ Something wicked this way comes/It starts with love for foliage and ends in camouflage". And then, "Remember Me" - where on the single, bad production seemed to have pushed what was a live belter into the mire, this re-recorded version is given full revs and allowed to soar.

There's not the time or space to go into every remaining song; suffice to say each takes over from the one before in reinforcing just how special this band are. The likes of "Fear of Drowning", "Carrion" and "Blackout" are packed with the lyrics and imagery that build still further upon the eccentric and intelligent British Sea Power worldview, yet meld it with a heart-tightening melancholia that makes these vignettes feel as love songs to a sweetheart far away.

The Decline of British Sea Power is nothing less than a triumph of a record. Bold, vigorous and atmospheric, these four fresh-faced young men have realised their peculiar vision with aplomb.

Luke Turner


Splendid Ezine

Like a number of press folks, I first heard British Sea Power earlier this year at South By Southwest. I'd heard about them prior to that point -- their name had come up in conversation more than once, and I'd been told that they "out-Interpoled Interpol", blah blah blah -- but my passive attempts to hunt down their singles hadn't yielded fruit. No matter; for a music fan, few things are more exciting than stumbling across a semi-secret performance by a band you've been wondering about for months, and I was suitably impressed.

Mind you, British Sea Power's live performance is an essential part of their mystique. The quintet dresses up in WWI-era military fatigues (at least I think that's what they were wearing) and decorates the stage in branches, shrubbery, stuffed (that is, taxidermied) animals and other pastoral camouflage. They're also prone to extremes, activity-wise -- everything from on-stage reading during slow bits to the sort of climbing, jumping and audience-endangering flailing more routinely associated with hardcore bands. (Think of them as an At The Drive-In for people who've mastered personal hygiene.) And as for their music...well, in the broadest possible sense, their sound was a frenetic post-punk sprawl informed by the shoegazer era, but devoid of the blatant Joy Division fetishism that characterized recent buzz-bands.

On that particular March afternoon, the group's performance created a sort of quasi-theatrical tableau; I imagined them as a rag-tag British Army regiment (their name may refer to maritime service, but their uniforms were more terrestrial), isolated in no-man's land, succumbing to battlefield madness in a more visceral way than the well-known underpants-on-the-head, pencils-up-the-nose brand of dementia. There was something desperate, something damaged, something heart-wrenching in their performance that day, and it stayed with me.

The Decline of British Sea Power doesn't have the uniforms, the tree-branches or (thank God) the tatty-looking stuffed badgers, but that lonely desperation is intact. Even so, this isn't a bleak album -- at least, not by the standards of the genre (post-millennial cynicism can't hold a candle to eighties-style fatalism). Sure, "Apologies to Insect Life" attacks with saw-toothed guitars, a muddy, moody bass line and an unhealthy dose of screechy/shouty hysterics from vocalist/guitarist Yan, but the anguish isn't palpable. "Favours In The Beetroot Fields" clings desperately to its cloud of minor-key proto-goth gloom, but the potential for a shameless garage-punk rockout increases with each chorus.

By "Remember Me", they're wallowing in pure pop. Yan trots out a suitably breathy David Bowie impression on the verses, then shifts, inexplicably, into Bruce Springsteen mode on the chorus (which, like so many great choruses, involves singing the titular phrase over and over 'til the tape runs out). I imagined him striking a stiff-limbed arena-rock-star pose on the hood of a metallic green Oldsmobile.

If you liked the Bowie act, you're in luck -- they trot it out again on "Fear of Drowning", fusing it with an intangible indie-rock vibe that's half Dino Jr., half Wedding Present. "Blackout" drops those reference points into a gentler environment: it's quintessential piano-backed Britpop, with Yan's throaty croon hitting David Gedgeian valleys and Morrisseyesque emotional peaks. For a slightly less referential approach, check out the glorious "Carrion", the missing link between glam and shoegaze.

Once you've slogged through the trenches of the fourteen-minute "Lately" (eight minutes of sublimely polite pop build-up crucified by six minutes of spiky, ear-piercing feedback manipulation), The Decline of British Sea Power has a couple of real treats in store: the understated but skin-pricklingly beautiful "A Wooden Horse" (keyboardist Eamon earns his keep here with some heart-tugging piano work) and the robust "Childhood Memories", which blossoms from noisy pop into a punked-up Echo and the Bunnymen fantasy. The latter would've made a more satisfying closer than the relatively faceless instrumental "Heavenly Waters", which offers a solemn, cathartically post-rockish flare-up but suffers without Yan's emotionally resonant vocals.

As a whole, The Decline of British Sea Power is a record you'll probably tell your friends about, but it won't make you into a fervent, foamy-mouthed convert - at least, not unless you're in a suitably receptive mood and play the record at its optimum volume...which, in case you wondered, means as loud as possible. Many of the most memorable details of British Sea Power's performance (the substructural guitar interplay, the skillful feedback manipulation, Eamon's delicate piano bits) can only be heard and appreciated if you push the volume up as loud as your speakers, your lease and your local noise regulations will allow. In other words, your best bet is to recreate the British Sea Power live experience in your home - to stage your own hush-hush, semi-secret, industry-only BSP gig and cast yourself as the guest of honor. Drag a few pot plants in front of the speakers, dig that moth-eaten stuffed deer-head out of the back of the closet, and if you happen to own a pith helmet, wear it. Then, finally, it will all make sense.

Best of all, the moth-eaten stuffed ocelot is purely optional.

4/5.

George Zahora


Stylus Mag

What is the power of the British sea? An odd thing, for sure. A five-piece from Brighton, guitars and keys and drums and voices and too much strange clean salt-air, pot-plants onstage with them, cheeky and irreverent but honest with it. "We ourselves may be loved only for a brief time...even so, that will suffice...there is a land for the living and there is a land for the dead..." are the words writ upon the cover. British Sea Power's Classic... A Gregorian-style chant gives way to a fingers-&-thumbs bassline, a clatter, a stiffed riff, a stabbing tempo, The Pixies, "Apologies To Insect Life" indeed, indeed? A minute-and-a-bit burst that doesn't work.

For too long now we've been starved of new guitar bands with real personality, one tight-trousered grunter after another caterwauling and swaggering, too busy doing punker and rocker to notice the delightful oddities hidden in the melancholy joy of pop. Is this the turning of the tide? The Coral are crawling up a blind-alley of histori-scouse ballads, the vim and whimsy gone to The La's, nodding heads, nodding heads, stroking chins. Something Wicked "this way comes", organ and airy harmonies buried back there, a spooky hello, pop as can only be made by young men who spend too much time laughing at the sea and turning up guitars. The scent of Clouds Taste Metallic-era Flaming Lips on "Remember Me", a better song than any on SFA's last album, busy and hungry and a touch crazy.

Anyone who can rhyme "ebbing tide" with "formaldehyde" gets a Blue Peter badge, who can squeeze in more backing vocals that sound like pagan monks, striking guitars and delicate piano lines, British coastal psychedelic pop, emotional and strange and proud to be a little to one side. Peaks with "The Lonely", a falling guitar line like The Stone Roses could have played, emptiness, impermanence, "haunt you with peculiar piano riffs / I believe bravery exists..." a direct comment on the emptiness and uselessness of song, this song, every song; "Casio electric piano" and still that stomach-pull that lets you know, winding up and down again in noise and echo and piano.

Peaks again with a 14-minute meander through half-a-dozen different tunes, some of them pop, some of them post-rock, all of them fitting together, the start with guitar like rain and cymbals like strong wind through trees. "Lately you seem like another language." Shimmering phases, FX, electronic ear-pieces, fuzzed-out distorted vocals, a shoe-gazing climax, sweet bass and angular guitar clicks and notes and more climax, more calm, and then too fast until it hums and feedbacks itself out.

British Sea Power dissolve ten, twenty, thirty years of skewed British guitar pop into their own solution, giving it their own personality rather than the past's. "A Wooden Horse" with Morse code guitar and stately piano and a chorus that swings, that last-song-vibe, and easily melodic drift, the verse a broken version of the chorus. These are people making model boats and fly-fishing and butterfly-catching. Still young, weak in places, they can swim and fall beautifully and they will do this more often. "British Sea Power's Classic"? Not quite. Not yet. But we can see the high-tide mark.

Nick Southall


Neumu.net

British Sea Power. The name alone strongly suggests that this young band is a bit off. Their stage show - reported to feature props best suited to a Max Fischer Players production - reinforces this notion. But ultimately it's their debut album, The Decline of British Sea Power, that trumpets the band's daftness loud and clear.

But it's an endearing daftness, to be sure. Decline... kicks off with a brief choral chant before launching into a treble-heavy, manic thrash number that finds lead singer Yan shouting about an attractive man named Fyodor, bad acid, gymnastic whores, and molasses. Naturally, it's entitled "Apologies to Insect Life." That it's followed by a nearly identical (but thankfully shorter) track makes one suspect that this may be as much a test as an actual contemporary rock-type album.

But there are rewards for passing this short three-song exam, in the form of a series of extremely good songs, beginning with the fourth track, the pastoral "Something Wicked." At this point it becomes clear that despite the pretty melodies brought forth through the band's guitars and keys, Yan's hushed, often-overdramatic vocal approach may be the make-or-break factor for appreciating British Sea Power. He redeems himself on the more straightforward hard rock of "Remember Me," then emerges triumphant on "Fear of Drowning," which concerns itself with provincialism (consensus: it's bad) and the need to escape home to truly appreciate it.

The band's blend of whimsy and wonderfulness is perhaps best exemplified by "The Lonely," which starts out in that jangly-yet-muscular vein that Britbands just seem to do better than anyone else these days. Sumptuous, echoing guitar leads wrap around straightforward rhythms while Yan delivers the opening lines, the song's charms unfolding on the piano-driven chorus: "I'll drink all day and play by night/ Upon my Casio electric piano/ Till in the darkness I see lights/ But not candelabra/ But things from other stars." Keys delicately dance about as the singer delivers the strange little punch line of "Just like Liberace/ I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffs," which is likely better appreciated when heard rather than read. It truly is a marvelously melancholy gem of a song.

"Carrion" merges the hard and soft sides of the band's personality, with a bluesy guitar riff skirting around and through an angelic, largely acoustic tune in which Yan successfully rhymes "cried," "died," and "formaldehyde." Multi-instrumentalist Hamilton takes the helm on the ballad "Blackout," which finds his Yan-like voice backed by Gregorian chants on the bridge. The 14 tepid, overblown minutes of "Lately" are perhaps 10 more than we need, while the stripped-down sound of album closer "A Wooden Horse" offers an interesting contrast to the layered sound the band crafts on the preceding tracks.

British Sea Power remind us that there are some things that make no sense, which is different than those that are just nonsense. While some of their songs deliver nothing more than noisy twaddle, British Sea Power are a formidable band when they choose to simply stop making sense.

7/10.

Steve Gozdecki


Austin Chronicle

Sussex fivepiece British Sea Power is the sort of band that inspires UK rock bible Q to write things like, "a mangled patriotic vision in which Orwell's old maids weren't hiking to Holy Communion, they were drowning themselves in warm beer and lobbing cricket balls through the vestry window." Huh? Vestry? Praise like that usually translates into zero Stateside impact, but not so fast. The Decline of British Sea Power is undeniably dense and atmospheric, but not inaccessible.

With its pinched-nerve vocals and fractured surf guitar, "Apologies to Insect Life" contains a hint of the Pixies, and the lovely, cascading "Remember Me" and "The Lonely" each owe a debt to Thin White Duke-era Bowie. "Blackout" takes a few spins to realize it's not an outtake to Echo & the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain. Obviously, none of this is bad, or even particularly inscrutable, although meltdown "Lately" does ramble for more than 13 minutes. Nonetheless, Decline is overall an enchanting, rhapsodic album of uncommon depth. Lord knows why they've chosen to write about beetroot fields, insects, and wooden horses, but that's neither here nor there. Perhaps it's just Britons' way of making "country music." Who are we to argue?

4.5/5

Christopher Gray


2-4-7 Music

Lets make no bones about it, if bands are going to wear their influences on their sleeves it's only right, quite frankly, that folks like me should point them out at every god given opportunity. Lazy journalism? Praps. But it's an idleness more than equally matched by many of the bands themselves and their own sluggish reluctance to pursue something original. British Sea Power on the otherhand, manage to stir up the dream of a thousand past masters whilst simultaneously steering their brave, intrepid vessel through an ocean of surprises.

Enough of the sea metaphors? Well alright. But you get my point - for every knowing wink in the direction of Joy Division, David Bowie, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Pixies and Lloyd Cole (honestly) there's an eager move toward the altogether dishevelled and unfamiliar. Take the Gregorian chant that begins the album. Unexpected? I'll say. And 'Apologies to Insect', 'Favours In The Beetroot Field'? Sidestepping the manic shanty recall of head nautics, The Coral, there's a very deliberate disorientating punk mania going on here: the delirious thumping debacle of the drums, the thrashing speed guitars. It's a miracle it comes together - but it does in a clumsy and unkempt fashion. But that's the whole bloody point. It's like some tumultuous, torso tossing tempest. Pure disorientation: crank up the guitars, trash the drums and leave the audience in such an awkward state of uncertainty that all preconceptions about the music soften and dissolve. And for this we are rewarded with a lush, caressing calm when 'Something Wicked' collapses like foam into the forgeround.

This is where there's marked change in direction: the sinister, breathless delivery, the flickering incandescence of the guitars, the wacky children's choir sounds, the epic narrative - this is where Yan, the boys and their loud and dazzling hornpipe truly begin to shine. It's fiery and gentle all at the same time and bleeds perfectly naturally into the haunting piano riffs of 'The Lonely' a couple of songs in.

What will get repeated plays on my little windows media player, however, is upcoming single 'Carrion' - a heart-stopping chuggernaut of a song: blistering Joy Division guitar line - tragically beautiful verses, uplifting chorus and very probably destined to grace the soundtrack to a thousand and one 'Goal of the Week' run downs this September. Pure Linekar.

Make no mistake about it; they're going to be a very significant intervention in British music today. And somewhere along the line, they may just provide the answer.

5/5.

Alan Sargeant


Prefix Mag

It's easy to forget how vague a word weird can be. In elementary school, weird was the term used for both the kid licking up paint from the floor and the kid over in the corner buried in a book. But is deeming reading weird appropriate? Is it bad to try to be different in the most refreshing way possible?

Answer "no" and move on to some other review; you'll only end up taunting Brighton, England's British Sea Power for what you reckon to be weirdness. On the five pieces' debut, Decline of British Sea Power, released by Rough Trade, BSP veers off the beaten path, with Gregorian chants, nautical imagery and recordings of crashing waves. But combine that with breathy vocals and utter lack of pretentiousness, and suddenly that kid reading in the corner is creating an album of the most uncommon beauty.

Look no further than "Carrion," the swirling, whirling single that sounds soothingly familiar yet remarkably new. With the glacial splendor of Echo and the Bunnymen, the vocals of Joy Division, and even a bit of Bowie thrown in to the mix, the track oozes with salt-water and seagulls. And this is without paying notice to the lyrics calling attention to the ocean ("I felt the lapping of an ebbing tide"), sung like a sea breeze by vocalist Yan.

Not all water is as calm as "Carrion"; both "Apologies To Insect Life" and "Favours In the Beetroot Fields," ironically placed immediately after the Gregorian chanting, are full of slicing guitars and yelping vocals. And though the moment in "Apologies," when Yan squeezes out the title's words to a wall of sound, has the potential to drown, it instead crashes over you, taking you away with the tide. It is then, before the beauty of "Carrion" or the catchiness of "Remember Me" is fully realized, that BSP wins you over. Even the bonus track, "Childhood Memories," could be considered weird, as it manages to avoid the typical bonus-track downfall. Neither an awful demo nor unworthy B-side, the track mixes a little whimsy to its smooth-sailing formula.

More focused and less sprawling than the Coral's debut, Decline of... has that sense of wonderment that brings you back to those days of sitting off by yourself and reading. Which may be considered weird, but was never - and is still never - a bad thing.

4.5/5.

Rebecca Willa Davis


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