Long-awaited debut album declared officially 'oddball'
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.