Sound: Coming off the balls-out grandeur of 2008's "Do You Like Rock Music?", British Sea Power have gone "anthem" so to speak, with 2011's "Valhalla Dancehall". The band curiously cited early "Rolf Und Florian"-era Kraftwerk as an influence for the album - which may account for the disjointed but ace "Living Is So Easy" - but it is quintessentially a rock record. A few surprisingly pastoral songs infiltrate the last half of the album, like "Baby" and "Cleaning Out The Rooms", but don't bog the record down. In all, "Valhalla Dancehall" might be the band's most accessible record (yes, even moreso than "Open Season"... ) to date; this manifesto can be gleaned in "Luna", as Yan sings "So hey now, just put the f--king record on and tell my why." // 9
Lyrics: Yan and Hamilton don't sing about "effervescent sheens" (a la "Open Season") or "Czech Ecstasy" (condoned on "Do You Like Rock Music?") on "Valhalla Dancehall", but the lyrics are nonetheless erudite and laden with historical-allusions, most notably "Stunde Null", the "zero hour" when Nazi Germany formally dissolved.
One of the most lyrically-pertinent songs to this reviewer is the erroneously-placed "Living Is So Easy", where we are finally promised those burbling early-Kratwerk synths despite them being almost completely out of place with the rest of the record. Either way, the chorus's cooing question-taunt "Are you going to the party?" as well as its humorous opening line "Well oh my God did she look cute/at the Dame Vera clay pigeon shoot" provides an acerbic jab at the vapidity of the rich and famous, outlining a sort of "trickle-down" theory of luxury that is laughable and despairing at the same time. // 10
Overall Impression: Lyrically it's not [i]quite[/i] as verbose or erudite as previous BSP albums (the line "pissin' vitamins" might not appeal to those effete fans of "Open Season"; but then, how much better was the line "A little excitement makes us a-wetter wetter"?), musically it's quite a ways from the more fragile sounds of "Open Season" and "Man Of Aran", a bit toned down from "Do You Like Rock Music?". It's by no means a diluted sequel to that aforementioned album; "Valhalla Dancehall" is as current as "DYLRM?" was in its time, and adequately represents the band's shift in live sound after acquiring a violinist and cornet player/replacement keyboardist. Though I full enjoy the song, I'm still not clear on why "Living Is So Easy" was included amongst this tracklisting; I'm just glad it was. // 10