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Saturday, November 18, 2017

British Sea Power: Let The Dancers Inherit The Party


1) Intro; 2) Bad Bohemian; 3) International Space Station; 4) What You're Doing; 5) The Voice Of Ivy Lee; 6) Keep On Trying; 7) Electrical Kittens; 8) Saint Jerome; 9) Praise For Whatever; 10) Want To Be Free; 11) Don't Let The Sun Get In The Way; 12) Alone Piano.

Here is a very brief review: This is an album by British Sea Power released in 2017, and it sounds exactly like all the other British Sea Power albums released from 2003 to 2017. If you have already heard one album by British Sea Power, you know what this album sounds like, so there is absolutely no point listening to me explain it all over again. If you have not heard a single album ever released by British Sea Power... well, then I have absolutely no idea why you'd want to hear one now. It's not like, you know, «hey everybody! It's 2017, and the time is finally right for us to enjoy us some British Sea Power!»

Then again, maybe it is, because quite a few reviews have latched onto the album's presumable significance in the age of Brexit — after all, once you have called yourself British Sea Power, you seem to be implicitly responsible for that power, and given the band's penchant for bombastic, ambitious, anthemic music, it could be natural to expect some sort of reply from them; and given their indie origins and all, it could also be natural to hear them voice some righteous concerns about what has happened. Yet on the lyrical front, Let The Dancers is decidedly apolitical: these guys clearly do not want to make enemies with either faction — instead, what they offer is an abstract painting of spiritual torment and reawakening, the same way they have already done it so many times. A smart move, but I'd rather see them get political, if only because a bit of anger would make the songs slightly less monotonous.

With the exception of the 30-second long atmospheric ʽIntroʼ and the closing song, the ten tracks that constitute the bulk of the album are completely interchangeable — just the same old schtick: heavy-brawly drumming, U2-ish guitars, depth-adding atmospheric keyboards, hopelessly roman­tic vocals, and echo-and-reverb-a-plenty to properly get this mastodon off the ground and into space. The difference is mainly in tempo (ʽElectrical Kittensʼ is slower, ʽSaint Jeromeʼ is faster, ʽPraise For Whateverʼ is slower, ʽDon't Let The Sun Get In The Wayʼ is faster... you get the drill), and no matter how different the specific hooks are in term of melody, everything sets precisely the same mood. In the end, each of these songs lives and dies on the strength — or, rather, the hammer-on repetitiveness — of its chorus hook. Otherwise, it's strictly a hive matter.

Probably the one song that gets mentioned most of the time is ʽKeep On Tryingʼ, because of its bizarre invocation of a German discotheque through the shouted chorus of "sechs freunde! sechs freunde!" ("six friends"); also, Wilkinson either cannot or will not properly pronounce the German numeral, ending up with «sex freunde», as if the dancers were inheriting, you know, that kind of party. But it is silly, and since it is the only thing on the album that sounds silly, it comes off as an annoying blunder rather than some Sparks-influenced gesture. These guys aren't Sparks, they never had a proper sense of humor, and it's too late to start now.

The other song that sometimes gets mentioned is ʽBad Bohemianʼ, because it was released as the first single (the sex friends one was, of course, the second), it is the first song on the album, and its invocation — "don't be a bad bohemian" — is repeated so many times and in such a passionate and entreating manner that you are really tempted to begin to think about what the hell it means. I mean, being a bohemian is already bad enough, but being a bad bohemian?.. Well, essentially the song is an inspired rant against the plague of pessimism in modern society ("it's sad now how the glass looks rather empty") — the problem being that it sounds so formulaic and stilted, there is very little credibility I can fish out for these guys. "Don't let us die while we are still alive" is a noble invocation, but there is nothing in the words or the music that would actually lead me to believe that they, British Sea Power, actually believe that their music can be part of an optimistic cure for the world today. I mean, it takes a bit more talent than this, I think, to convince a cancer patient that things are gonna work out fine, you know?

All said, this is no better and no worse than any other BSP album ever released. The formula still holds, and about half of the songs grow fins and hooks upon repeated listens — at the very least, it is all far more listenable than the latest U2 albums, if you're in the mood for some fresh-and-actual bombast. Also, the final track, ʽAlone Pianoʼ, despite its title, features far more than just a piano, but it does drop the heavy rhythm section, mainly gliding by on impressionistic waves of ambient pianos, atonal strings, and psychedelic tape effects — pretty, though rather dragged-out, like every­thing else. In other words, these guys may have cornered themselves, but they are still fighting, far from nearing the end of the road. Then again, nobody fucks around with British sea power, right? At least the fans will be delighted.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I can tell you the reason for listening to this album. Curiosity.

    I've got my pirate copies of the yellow-with-something-album and the bear-and-stars-album (don't care for the titles) and I've been to a BSP concert (which was crazy enough by 2005 Moscow standards, yet predicable kind of crazy — exactly what you'd think a bunch of young guys in front of around 50 people on a open venue would try to pull off to be considered 'crazy') and this is where I preferred to end it all thinking that the band would call it quits once the garage/rock revival wave would run out of fuel.

    I was wrong! They've continued to record new albums and just for the sake of nostalgia-fueled indulgence I've finally decided to have a go with the latest one.

    Well, probably you get the same result when you try to reconnect with your ex. Exactly the same shit as the previous time around. Led by just good memories you arrive to experience only all the downsides, which caused the breakup. My feelings about the-red-with-black-words-album (still, don't care about the titles) are exactly the same as the ones about yellow-with-something-album. Nothing too bad to start hating it, nothing distinct enough to start even thinking about preferring BSP to any other British rock band from the 00s.

    Come to think about it, I've met my one and only ex-girlfriend at that 2005 BSP gig. Revisiting this red-something-album is a good warning!