Back in 2003, there was a little band by the name of British Sea Power that got signed to Rough Trade Records thanks to their energetic live shows. Later in September, the band released ‘The Decline of British Sea Power,’ one of the year’s best records, an album that did justice to their versatile live performances. The album has everything to it: piercing guitars, unpredictable shifts, quick songs, slow songs, you name it. The band made quite a reputation for itself, and was labeled the next big thing, another one of England’s darlings.
Then came ‘Open Season’ in 2005. It premiered to mixed receptions, leaving people a bit confused about the band’s direction. The versatile irregularity took a backseat to a more accessible, mellow approach that worked for some, but not for all. The debut seemed to hit on all cylinders, while most fans felt ‘Open Season’ was lacking.
So, as it is with many of these bands, the real success falls on the third album. With one that everyone calls a gem, and the other one being an iffy topic, only a third solid release would give BSP the legitimacy of a real force in this so-called erupting ‘indie’ scene. They certainly have the producers with the credentials, relying on guys that worked with the Arcade Fire, Jarvis Cocker and Godspeed You Black Emperor! to help with the new album, ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ There is an arena-rock feel to the album, and it was produced slickly, even after an album like ‘Open Season.’ But what about the quality?
‘All In It’ starts off the album. Or rather, it rolls it along. Repetitions of ‘We’re all in it / We close our eyes,’ might send you drifting to sleep, but waves of distortion arrive to wake you up before you completely lose interest.
The next song, ‘Lights Out for Darker Skies,’ is definitely a highlight of the album. The verses’ pace skips along and is catchy enough to keep you intrigued, but the riff in the chorus is what British Sea Power- fans are waiting for. That crunch. That force. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of it, and the riff really isn’t enough by itself.
The next couple of songs go back to the dull moments of ‘Open Season.’ Yan, who is generally in charge of vocal duties, repeats ‘Is that what the future holds?’ in ‘No Lucifer.’ You can just imagine the legion of fans hoping for something to grab their attention before they accept that this may just be the future for their band. There is more noise in the background of these songs, but it loses its effect when it isn’t used properly.
The songs, while losing their vibrancy, are still well-crafted. ‘Canvey Island’ is guided by slow beautiful reverb, and might show the direction the band will take. ‘The Great Skua’ is one of the more majestic and delicate songs the band has ever done, a soothing instrumental piece. ‘Atom’ seemingly bursts with life before its redundancy drains out its stride and the vocals, which get a little interesting before pulling the rug out from under you. ‘No Need to Cry’ is a nice brooder from a band that has shown the capability of going on both sides of the spectrum. The problem is that there isn’t anything else on the other side. The album closes with ‘We Close Our Eyes,’ a tune similar to how the album was started. Fans are left with the same yearning they had when the album started.
Even though these songs are not the most exciting, we can still see the talent this band exudes. It still has the pop sensibility of some of the better bands of the 1980s, like The Smiths and The Cure. But the force and impulsiveness that garnered comparisons to The Pixies are quickly fading and looking unfair to a band as influential as Frank Black’s gang.
The worst part is that the potential they showed in their debut was some of the most promising in the rock industry. Settling for mediocrity after a promising start is already too clich