Monday, January 14th, 2008
As seems to be my habit with British rock bands lately (Bloc Party, Editors), I fell for British Sea Power not with their much-lauded debut albums, but their mildy-reviled sophomore efforts. The complaints about Open Season relative to their debut The Decline Of British Sea Power were that it was too smoothed over and lacked the jagged chaos that some loved about the first record and was certainly a defining character of their legendary live shows.
I’m not ashamed to admit that it was that directness, pop sense and athemicism that sold me on the band but after going back and spending some more time with Decline, I could appreciate where the detractors were coming from. There was an energy there that seemed muzzled on the second record, like they were making a deliberate effort to fit in with more refined company at the expense, perhaps, of being themselves.
And so we come to the critical third record, the promisingly titled Do You Like Rock Music?, scheduled for release on February 12. Though it was also recorded in part in the Czech Republic and Cornwall in the UK, much attention is being paid to the album’s debt to Montreal – in particular, the fact that it was recorded with the assistance of Howard Bilerman and Efrim Menuck, best known for their work with Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. And if you’re looking for their fingerprints, they’re not hard to see (or hear) – there expansiveness and dramaticism that the band has always striven for is better realized than ever before and the guitars have a churning quality that reminds me more than a little than some passages on Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.
But while those are interesting talking points, the fact remains that this is still a British Sea Power record through and through, and maybe I’m still on a buzz from the newness of the album, but I’m prepared to call it their best. It strikes an almost-perfect blend of the best parts of the first two albums, with the idiosyncrasy and energy of the first balanced with the scope and grandeur of the second. Start to finish the whole thing hangs together wonderfully, ebbing and tiding as necessary and crackling with electricity throughout and when it reaches for the high points, look out. “Waving Flags”, the download of which comes from Spin, is the sort of song that could incite a revolution. With Rock Music, British Sea Power have crafted a record of anthems meant to be sung not from arenas, but the forests, the fields, the beaches, the cliffs. Yes, we like rock music. Especially like this.
Do You Like Rock Music? is one of the first big releases of the year, particularly in the UK where the album is being released today. This is evidenced by the sheer amount of press and interviews that have been cropping up in their media over the last little while… of course, this is helped by the fact that the BSP boys are odd fellows to say the least, which always makes for interesting conversation. Check out pieces at The Times, The Independent, The Irish News, Drowned In Sound, The Guardian, MusicOHM and The Belfast Telegraph.
The first slew of North American tour dates was announced last week and while the absence of a Toronto stop is obviously disappointing (especially after their abruptly cancelled show a couple of Autumns ago), it should be noted that the entire east coast has yet to be serviced so I think we can expect an announcement of further dates before too long.
In the “ask and thou shalt receive” department, Headlights – whom I was hoping would come through town on Friday – were revealed that very afternoon to have a show booked for the El Mocambo on March 2 with Okies Evangelicals. I probably won’t be able to make it, but that’s besides the point. Headlights’ Some Racing, Some Stopping is out February 19 and Evangelicals’ second album The Evening Descends is out next week on January 22. Sample a bit and stream the whole thing below.
The Breeders, whose new one Mountain Battles is out April 7, have confirmed their Toronto show for CMW which was mentioned last December. They’ll be at the Phoenix on March 8, tickets for that are $28.50 and probably a limited number of CMW wristbands.
Clinic are gearing up for the release of their new record Do It! on April 8 by releasing the first single “Free Not Free” as a free download from their website starting on February 1. They’ve also booked a North American tour that will stop at Lee’s Palace on May 11. Single details and full dates at Strange Glue.