British Sea Power - Salty Water

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Night & Day, Manchester, UK

If Top of the Pops depicts current pop as an endless procession of identically styled wannabes with no discernible individuality, British Sea Power are determined to do something about it.

Formed somewhere in the dark forests of the Lake District, where fighter jets interrupt the birdsong, their twin obsessions are the military and nature. Thus, the band wear quasi-military uniforms; the keyboard-player wears a tin hat and radio microphone from a second world war bomber. Most bizarrely, the drumkit is covered in bushes and stuffed owls perch on the amps. If this surreal spectacle is what the band can accomplish in a tiny Manchester venue, army surplus shops will see a windfall if they ever make it to Wembley.

Touches like this brought British Sea Power increasing attention over this year, but beyond the trappings they are presenting a different take on art rock. Although they are not precisely original, they mix musical influences that have lain dormant for some time - post-punk, early New Order and, most intriguingly, the choppy, angry sound of vintage Postcard records outfit, Josef K. However, the most refreshing thing about them is their passion. British Sea Power obviously feel very strongly about something (the threat of war?), even though it's not entirely obvious what it is.

Enigmatic singer "Yan" has inherited the Ian Curtis/early Jim Kerr manner of staring at something imperceptible and apparently astonishing, way in the distance. Tense and glassy-eyed, he is the band's pied piper, leading the music and the audience we know not where. One of their songs praises the spirit of Charles Lindbergh, another consists of sergeant major-type shouting.

There is something vaguely comical about them but also slightly sinister. It can be a killer combination. Waging battle against a truly appalling sound system, at times they hit on a surging, uplifting sound. At the end, the guitarist climbs on the bassist's back and Yan hurls the bushes into the audience. For now, these japes offer something different. In time, they may unveil more of substance.


Author: Dave Simpson
Source: The Guardian
Date: 22nd October 2002

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