Sound — 10
Certain bits of certain songs may bring certain artists to mind. There can be moody overtones reminiscent of post-punk bands such as Joy Division or Echo and the Bunnymen. At first listen, Yan (the vocalist and rhythm guitarist) sounds a little like David Bowie. On some tracks they use the bass much like the Pixies. However, in spite of these similarities, British Sea Power retain a sound that is entirely their own. The guitars are epic and sweeping and the rythym section provides a strong backing. Piano or keyboards occasionally augment both. Noble, the guitarist has jokingly referred to the band's sound as "High Church Rock." The songs range from footstomping rock to swirling, epic post-punk, to pleasing indie ballads. It is the kind of music that makes you want to lead a cavalry charge or tell a girl you love her (or both).
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics, when intelligible, are one of the band's strongest suits. The lyrics deal with themes of memory, nature, hope, and triumphantly rising above the woes of the world. The band is very fond of allusion, and makes all sorts of references to matters literary and historical. While some may find a band this quirky too much to handle, BSP use it deftly and only when needed. The lyrics paint a picture of a band of charming eccentrics longing for greener pastures.
Overall Impression — 10
I am not a big fan of much current music, but British Sea Power has become one of my favorite bands. They don't sound like what I would otherwise listen to (The Who, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc). All of the songs are impressive in their own right, so here is a brief track-by-track. 01. Men Together Today - this is a 40 second long Gregorian chant that will certainly make you do a double take if you're caught unawares. It provides a nice bookend, showing the listener that they are not listening to an ordinary rock album. 02. Apologies To Insect Life - this sounds like it could be a Pixies song. It's a tribute to author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It is a very rough song, and may deter to the casual listener. 03. Favours In The Beetroot Fields - this starts with a very jarring guitar that sounds like an air raid siren and is about Field Marshall Montgomery in North Africa in World War II. This and "Apologies' are the "hardest" songs on the album, which takes a sharply different starting with the next track. 04. Something Wicked - this is about the use of nature for destructive purposes. It is a serene song and features beautiful organ work. 05. Remember Me - one of the highlights of the album. It is a pure rocker about the decline associated with old age. Incredibly catchy. 06. Fear Of Drowning - according to the British Sea Power Internet forum this is the greatest of their songs. It is about fighting against being overwhelmed by the modern world. It is atmospheric, biting, and powerful. 07. The Lonely - when Yan attended Reading University he worked in the kitchens along with Geoff Goddard, who wrote "Johnny, Remember Me" and played clavioline on "Telstar." This is one of the album's gentler songs that soothes while still retaining the vigor of the harder tracks. 08. Carrion - this song is about the sea. It is swirling, moving, powerful, and inspiring. It showcases the band's ability as lyricists and composers. I couldn't do it justice. 09. Blackout - this is by Hamilton and is an ode to nature. It has the misfortune of coming after the mighty "Carrion," so it may seem a little dull at first. An excellent example of British Sea Power's softer side. 10. Lately - this is a fourteen minute epic based on Yan and Hamilton's father's experiences fighting in the Second World War. It is easy to be put off by a song this long and pretentious, however listening to it through will reward you with a perfect example of the band's raw energy. 11. A Wooden Horse - this piano-heavy song is the album's gentle closer, easing the listener out of the previous ten tracks of righteous fury. I didn't like it for a long time, but it grew on me. 12. Childhood Memories - previously released as a single, this is available as a bonus track on the US and Japan releases of the album. It's a great rock song about a small town wrecked by a nuclear meltdown. 13. Heavenly Waters - originally a B-side to the "Carrion/Apologies To Insect Life" single. It is an instrumental with that has the atmosphere of Sigur Rs and the chaos of Pink Floyd forged into a harmonious masterpiece. I once listened to it as I sat by a lake at sunset and found myself utterly a peace. A great end to a great album.