Album Review British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?

This could be the quintessential BSP album that leads them to brilliantine immortality.

The title to British Sea Power’s third album, ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’, could seem like a re-working of a lyric from Arthur Conley’s self-referential ‘Sweet Soul Music’, with its famous line ‘do you like good music? That sweet soul music?’ In this instance, BSP’s latest offering also acts as a sort of self-referential inquiry, for it questions your tolerances/enjoyment/tastes/opinions of rock music to the ultimate. It is, as described by guitarist Nobel, a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ album.

At times, ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ achieves a heaviness that BSP have never shown until now – and they’re all the better for it; reaching a level of intensity and brilliance that even ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’, with the likes of the 14-minute long ‘Lately’ and ‘Remember Me’, couldn’t achieve.

‘Atom’, which also appears on BSP’s recent EP, ‘Krankenhaus?’, in typical BSP fashion, take its time to build itself up. Yet suddenly, it unleashes a force of energy that, in rock music at least, compares with the results of Niels Bohr’s atomic experiments: it guarantees to cause a chain reaction that’ll get you worked up to a hazardous level.

But like their second album ‘Open Season’,‘…Rock Music?’ is a rather clean and tight affair. But unlike its predecessor, this doesn’t constrain BSP’s sound to the verge of ordinariness. ‘No Lucifer’ and ‘Waving Flags’ have a definite touch of the Arcade Fire about them, with the increased use of violins and copious amounts of chanting; to that swirling, emotional echoic soundscape that seems synonymous with anything post-rock and Canadian.

Yet significantly, they both carry a haunting, anthemic beauty that if played on either a hi-fi or on heavy boggy festival ground, could remain in your conscience and struggle to go away. It’s stupidly early to be mentioning this after having ‘best of’ lists shoved into our faces, but sod it: they could be early contenders for ‘Tracks of 2008’.

However, this ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ feel comes through with the album’s somewhat quieter, less intensive offerings. Unlike the above tracks that instantly grab your attention, tracks like the instrumental ‘The Great Skua’ and the gentle ‘No Need to Cry’ require multiple listenings, add an extra dimension to a record full of rousing, catchy choruses, and create additional interpretations of ‘rock music’. It’s no surprise that these various takes are evident, with three separate producers in Graham Sutton (Jarvis Cocker); Efrim Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and Howard Bilerman (Hotel2Tango; co-incidentally, the recording studio used by Arcade Fire) involved.

But ‘…Rock Music?’ is catchy and rock at its most open; but also difficult and intricate, and encompasses the various aspects of what rock music can be. For BSP, it could be the culmination of a long seven years since their first furtive release; and could be the quintessential BSP album that leads them to brilliantine immmortality.


Tags: Brakes, Album Reviews, Reviews

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