British Sea Power is a six-piece band currently based in South East England and on the Isle Of Skye in Scotland.
BSP have been acknowledged by the great institutions: David Bowie, the National Maritime Museum, Jarvis Cocker and the British Horseracing Authority. They are a band that plays forests and giant rock halls as specially requested guests of The Flaming Lips, The Strokes and Pulp. But they’re also a band that put on their album parties in remote Sussex pubs where their own special guests are The Copper Family, a clan of Sussex folk singers who’ve been going for 200 years. British Sea Power truly is a band like no other.
If BSP is a band where dreams become real, this effect is unlikely to dim with their new album. Valhalla Dancehall is a record that moves from concise electronic pop to nine-minute solemnity to swaggering thug-glam. Lyrical subject matter includes local libraries, indigenous societies, the Dame Vera Lynn Celebrity Clay Pigeon Shoot and the party to which everyone is invited. Valhalla Dancehall is a record that suggests BSP’s cupboard remains full of medieval armored gloves. Again a gauntlet is thrown down.
British Sea Power formed in 2000 and put out their first release in 2001 – the “Fear Of Drowning” single on their own Golden Chariot label, but it was the band’s live performances that defined their first years. When BSP played the 2002 Reading Festival, Rolling Stone implied that the entirety of the weekend’s line-up paled before them: “Fuck this puerile drivel, we’re going to see British Sea Power… British Sea Power rule!” Since then the band has played a collection of unforgettable shows in remarkable surroundings.
The group released their debut album, The Decline Of British Sea Power in 2003, which Entertainment Weekly gave an “A” rating, stating “We have seen the past of rock & roll, and its name is BRITISH SEA POWER. And this, we can’t emphasize enough, is a good thing.” BSP followed that up with the release of Open Season in 2005, of which Pitchfork noted, “By maintaining their singular aesthetic while venturing into more inviting pop sounds, the weirdest band from Brighton just might have become the smartest.” 2008 marked the release of British Sea Power’s third album, Do You Like Rock Music? which was recorded in the Czech Republic, Canada and at Fort Tregantle – a 19th Century redoubt up on the Cornish cliffs. The album was nominated for the Mercury Prize and again the press shouted the record’s virtues from the rooftops. The Onion gave it an A- rating and proclaimed “it’s definitely BSP’s most rocking effort yet.”
After a few changes in line-up, the reconfigured band convened in 2009 to record the Man Of Aran soundtrack, a new largely instrumental score for Robert Flaherty’s fascinating 1934 film of the same name.
Now we arrive at BSP’s fourth studio album,Valhalla Dancehall. The title hints at some wild internationalist daydream – a mix of severe Norse mythos and jam-happy Jamaican discos. The album has a glorious scope, moving from the windswept nine-minute meditation of “Once More Now” to the neat electronic pop of “Living Is So Easy.” The album was recorded during Britain’s coldest winter in 30 years; there was snow and black ice and the fuel oil ran out at the band’s farmhouse studio.
While the album displays substantial compositional ambition and lyrics that move from “interstellar clouds on the Sussex Downs” in “Baby” to mentions of visible panty lines “Living Is So Easy”, Valhalla Dancehall is also often a very direct album. The band like to imagine there are hints of Kraftwerk, Abba, Winfred Atwell and Slade, all lined up beside an all-new Norse/Kingston pantheon and a mood of sweet, intoxicating sparkling wine.
British Sea Power’s current line-up is:
Yan Scott Wilkinson (vocals/guitar), Neil Hamilton Wilkinson (vocals/bass/guitar), Martin Noble (guitar/keyboards), Matthew Wood (drums), Abi Fry (viola/keyboards), Phil Sumner (keyboards/cornet/guitar)
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