British Sea Power - Salty Water

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Scillonian Club, The Scilly Isles, UK

Many years ago, while at their peak, Ian McCulloch and his band Echo and the Bunnymen thought it would be a good idea to take their music to the furthest northerly British point they could, for shits and giggles really, and promptly embarked on a tour of the Outer Hebrides. Using this as inspiration, British Sea Power turned the idea on its head deciding instead to head South, beyond the coast of mainland Cornwall, to the Isles of Scilly, a set of Islands populated by about one and a half thousand people, some of whom didn't even know what electricity was until 1985. With at least two confirmed bird twitchers in the band it was a chance for them to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, taking their music to most remote part of Britain, while tracking down rare and exotic puffins at the same time. Uniting the worlds of Ornithology and Rock! And so, the Scillionian Club, which is normally host to such delights as the support act tonight, Martin, the man with one name, a middle-aged Cornishman playing Chris Rea and Lighthouse Family covers to a backing tape, is to host the altogether more splendid and resplendent British Sea Power, who enlighten its residents and in turn inspire them to become depraved, pool cue-stealing felons.

We set off first thing on Friday morning from Penzance, a former residence of your correspondent, which has apparently turned into the smack capital of the South of England, a claim confirmed by a couple of jolly local journalists working for the Western Morning News, who spend large amounts of time seeing junkies from the sleepy seaside town being sent down for nicking when they're writing court reports. PlayLouder, along with a whole host of journalists, photographers, and super-fans (including one of the blokes from James and PlayLouder's own Andy Barding) board the Scillonian III owned by The Isles of Scilly Steam Ship Company (there's your mention) and PlayLouder spends the three hour journey violently chundering. First in the bar, then in the cabin below, then on a bed on the bottom deck about 13 times. Yum... When we arrive there is a genuine buzz around the Islands. The two policemen with the cushiest jobs in the whole law enforcement service crack gags, and the Duke of Kent is here for a visit but people don't seem to give a flying one about him, being more preoccupied with this strange rock group they've never actually seen or heard before. "Are you with this 'ere band?" asks a growling elderly gentlemen with a tanned, friendly, weather-beaten face and illustrious white whiskers, "I think it's bloody magic I do. What they called again? British Horse Power?"

The Scillonian Club fills up quickly, and the anticipation and curiosity of the folk is heartening, especially when crowds we're used to in the capital are at best aloof, and at worst dispassionate. Local people of all ages eye up media types suspiciously, and British Sea Power even more so as they take to the stage, which more resembles a taxidermist's workshop than a conventional stage for a rock band. Twigs and shrubbery sprout out of drum kits and amps and auxiliary member Eamon, keyboard player and itinerant drummer boy, is dressed in full World War II regalia, complete with helmet. BSP open with 'Fear Of Drowning' and we momentarily think forward to the journey back to mainland Britain we have to face tomorrow. Yikes. Like on so many other occasions the Power begin slowly and raise the pulses and the pace once they're in freeflow, and it's third song 'Apologies To Insects' that really begins to whip up genuine excitement to. "Oh Fyodor you are the most attractive man I know, your Russian heart is strong and has been bleeding for too long!" yelps Yan, stammering like a nutbag. The singer, who looks like some sort of crossbreed Ian Curtis mixed with tennis nearly man Tim Henman, swaps vocal and guitar duty with his foppishly handsome brother Hamilton who steps forward to warble the Robert Smithsian 'Blackout', with the singalong line "For you have drunk all your beer go drown your empty selves". It's ace.

By now the crowd in the pub are beginning to respond to British Sea Power, and you know what, I think they like them. This pub, these people, the majestic surroundings of the Island - this is British Sea Power. This is their perfect moment. Noble on guitar is just about to upset things however. Driven on by the response he leaps into the crowd and stalks up and down the front mashing his guitar. This doesn't go down well with a slightly inebriated girl in the front row who begins shouting at him. Not thinking Noble clambers back on stage and starts giving the girl the bird and screaming "fuuuuck yoooooooooooou!" at her repeatedly. He snaps off twigs and shrubbery from all around him and stuffs them in the back of his shirt. And then, insanely, he bounds off stage like a big eared Buzz Lightyear towards the girl, and a split second before he collides with her, one of the twigs protruding from his upper garment stabs her square in the eye. Christ almighty! Has he killed her?! The girl thankfully gets to her feet, more than a bit ruffled, and her beefy boyfriend pushes forward; he's possibly the largest man on the whole island, if not the world, his head is bald, and his muscles too look like bald heads. Noble quickly darts back onto the stage, takes the main mike and begs for forgiveness. After sufficient grovelling, he marches through the crowd to the bar, and comes back with two pints of cider, one for Cyclops and one for Popeye. It's one of the finest and funniest moments rock and roll has ever seen, and we don't even care that we don't get the lock in that had been rumoured, due to the Landlord not approving of the band's behaviour and the fact two of his pool cues have gone missing.

"This has never happened before," he whines pointing an accusatory finger in my direction. And sadly it may never happen again. The Scilly Isles will go back to normal once the band leave, but in a little way, things will never be quite the same again.


Author: Jeremy Allen
Source: Playlouder
Date: 3rd May 2003

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