British Sea Power still haven’t made a bad album.
Label: Golden Chariot
Released: 31st March 2017
Past masters of esoteric merchandise – tea, plasters, travel sweets, fudge – British Sea Power were always likely to deliver something different when crowdfunding their latest album. Sure enough, among super-deluxe editions, there was the chance for the devoted to get a BSP-designed tattoo – a kind of skin-worn season ticket guaranteeing lifetime entry to all BSP gigs, yours for just £1500. All five sold out.
It’s been four years – a long time in BSP’s world – since ‘Machineries of Joy’, their last studio album proper. While they hadn’t made a bad album yet, it suggested the band had found their eccentric furrow and would continue ploughing it. ‘Let The Dancers Inherit The Party’ doesn’t do much to suggest otherwise.
After a brief intro – piano plinks and atmospheric scrapes, looping around from the final track – ‘Bad Bohemian’ is a good start, anthemic and declamatory, with some of The Killers’ arena-ready oomph. And ‘International Space Station’ surfs boldly on ‘Telstar’ waves, radio crackle and weightless backing vocals. But the rather muted, aimless ‘What You’re Doing’ crash-lands, a little uninspired, and ‘Saint Jerome’ and the hungover plod of ‘Want to Be Free’ are equally unmemorable.
If it seems this singular act’s least interesting aspect – fond as they are of dressing stages with foliage and plastic herons, or sending nine-foot bears barrelling through crowds – is starting to be their music, there’s a pair of songs halfway that suggest the faithful are right to keep the band so close to their hearts (or skin). ‘Keep On Trying (Sechs Freunde)’ hangs its enthusiastic, comradely chorus around an urgent, poppy hook, while the lovely ‘Electrical Kittens’ is a stately, elegiac call for the kind of blitz spirit we might well need (“And we’ll all hold hands as the radio plays/say a little prayer for halcyon days”).
Starting strongly, the second half suffers from the same problems as the first, though, and the cracked optimism of ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In The Way’ – laced with crystal shimmer and sweetly cooing vocals – only emphasises what’s flat about the final ‘Alone Piano’ – part ballad, part collage. They still haven’t made a bad one, but ‘Let The Dancers…’ worst offence might be that it’s just a British Sea Power album. Whether or not that’s enough probably depends on your level of investment. Rob Mesure