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British Sea Power:: Open Season (Album Review)

‘Open Season’ demands perseverance. On my first foray, it felt too light-hearted, too obviously going for a more mainstream audience. I felt it lacked the insane caterwauling of songs on ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’ such as ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ and its unhinged barks of “Fyodor you are the most attractive man… HYEAT! HYEAT!”; ‘Open Season’ felt a little smooth, the spliced-in bird sounds labouring the point somewhat. But perseverance is part of British Sea Power, and their enduring mystique. It’s there in the opening ‘It Ended on An Oily Stage’ and its lyrics plucked from that strange mine of ‘Sea Powers very own – they themselves persevere with the “Languages… being lost” in their depiction of life experienced through “the coastalry… regions of the mind.” ‘Open Season’ is a record that matures British Sea Power into what was first suggested by their strident presence when I first saw them play the Bull & Gate back in 2001. ‘How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?’, sung by Hamilton, hurries a little too fast, as if eager to avoid an approaching rainshow, but this haste merely enhances Sea Power’s bassist’s unusual vocal timbre. ‘Like A Honeycomb’ has the tired joy of returning home from some arduous trek. ‘Please Stand Up’, meanwhile, has an anthemic quality that should see it as yet another British Sea Power blast ‘gainst the Jericho of crossover success. Yet it is moulded in the band’s unique image through despairing cadence and wistfully drawn out guitar. Everything feels bolder than before, more assured of the rightness of singing from places that most lyricists fear to tred. In textures and words alone, ‘Open Season’ is a country mile ahead of any of the supposedly heroic guitar debuts knocking around in 2005. You couldn’t imagine any other band coming up with ‘North Hanging Rock’, say, which half-way through, suddenly emerges from some torpid mist, as choral twinges and a simple piano back the floating vocals… “Drape yourself in greenery, become part of the scenery.” But it’s in the triumvirate of songs that close ‘Open Season’ that British Sea Power’s most redoubtable presence is felt, where the true reason for their importance in our early twenty-first century ears becomes most perceptible. The chiming ‘Oh Larsen B’ is not only an ode to the sad disintegration of an ice shelf, but representative of British Sea Power’s ability to evoke the marginal without losing themselves in a briar of self-constricting eccentricity. It builds through thrumming melody into what is the closest British Sea Power have yet come to capturing the esprit de corps of their audacious live shows, before tipping over into the Hamilton’s dreamy ‘The Land Beyond’. Then ‘True Adventures’ rises in a tumult of drums, hums and tumbles in great Nordic light-fizzes, bended strings, distant brass and dense power. Yet at its close, the ‘Open Season’ has only just begun.
Review by: Luke Turner