British Sea Power

Natural History Museum, London. (June 21)

British Sea Power Pic: Tom Oxley
The Natural History Museum is full of extinct animals. The foyer hosts the 12ft skeleton of a moa, the flightless bird native to New Zealand until hunted to extinction by human settlers. Then, greeting you through the building’s old doors, there’s the plastercast of a diplodocus skeleton, whose long tail once towered above The Strokes, the last band to play in the museum back in 2006. Further in, another species is fighting for the survival of its kind, the quintessentially eccentric British indie band. Classification: British Sea Power.

Not that the Brighton-via-Kendal band’s kind ever really roamed the earth – preferring instead to hunch over the Rough Trade seven-inch rack. Their numbers have fallen dramatically in recent times. Blame the major label co-option of ‘indie music’. Blame the dearth of bands willing to make the effort to innovate or entertain. Blame the lack of musicians who’ve chosen to emulate the shrubbery-obsessed foursome’s brand of C86 indie with eardrum-shredding My Bloody Valentine-indebted noise freakouts bolted on to the end. Eight years since their inception, British Sea Power stand in a field of one. The question is, in an age where a band as shrug-inducingly pedestrian as The Pigeon Detectives can go platinum, does anyone care?

These 600 people feverishly waving sprigs of bracken aloft would suggest they do. Bellowing back the words to ‘Carrion’ (augmented by black and white stills of the museum’s Victorian heritage) and closer ‘No Lucifer’ (the crowd’s participation in the “Easy! Easy!” chant being rewarded by fistfuls of plastic dinosaurs thrown to the crowd by guitarist Noble), it’s abundantly clear that everyone present is grateful to British Sea Power for… well, being British Sea Power. From the collection of things drummer Wood has found while foraging (fossils, mermaid’s purses, twigs) for sale on the merch table to the fact that tonight’s gig is held in this very environment; you wish there were more bands with the same willingness to peruse the notion that pop music can be literate, moving, clever, funny, and transcend the bland. Thankfully, on tonight’s evidence, you can’t ever see BSP going the way of the dodo.

James McMahon

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