British Sea Power - Salty Water

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An oddball broadside from Britain

Only two members of British Sea Power had ever been in bands before, singer-guitarist Yan says -- bassist Hamilton and drummer Woody, in Kendall, near the band's hometown of Bristol, England.

"Woody was in like six or seven bands in one night," Yan says. "Because, I think, he was the only talented drummer in the whole town."

It's no surprise that there's not much experience in the band -- the quirks haven't been ironed out, thank goodness.

The hard-rock bands can have the girls and cars; the grunge bands can have the angst. British Sea Power is more likely to sing about Charles Lindbergh, an old Czechoslovakian murder case or Casio electric pianos.

The Decline of British Sea Power begins with a choral interlude, then blasts into "Apologies to Insect Life," with guitarist-singer Yan yelping over fuzzed-out guitars and hardcore tempos: "Apologies to insect life . . . Apologies to everyone".

After spending the first three songs making sure you can't take anything for granted, the group eventually settles into gorgeously melancholy mid-tempo pop, occasionally reminiscent of The Chills, with anthemic guitar parts and orchestral keyboard and vocal touches and enough pure noise to keep you on your toes.

Yan's voice is a rough cross of David Bowie and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, with its own weathered charm, especially when singing of the sea, as he often does. ("The heavy water, how it enfolds/ The salt, the spray, the gorgeous undertow," from the single "Carrion").

The lyrical content is hard to work out, and unusual when it can be deciphered. Yan's use of uncommon words ("increment by increment" in "Remember Me") gives the ear something fresh to focus on.

"A Lovely Day Tomorrow," written and sung by Hamilton and not on the album, is about an assassination in Czechoslovakia. A new version is coming out in Czechoslovakia, a collaboration with the Czech band The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. And British Sea Power is going to Prague later this year to play it.

"When you go outside the normal things of what bands are meant to write about, these are the good things that can happen -- you get to go to Prague."

THE BAND'S visual hallmark is the use of flora and taxidermy on stage.

"Someone'll go out and climb a tree and prune a few shrubs. . . .

"On the one hand, if you set it out right, it's beautiful and creates an atmosphere. It's surprising how many people comment on the smells of it. I don't know; if a crowd turned nasty, it could turn into a weapon, or somewhere to hide.

"And it's quite interesting, just because it actually gets you out there to look for it, and you realize how fascinating various forms of plant life are. We had, I think in Los Angeles, some bulrushes, and these things must have been just ready to seed, because every time they got hit, or Woody smashed his cymbals and they banged into them, all these little seeds would fly up into the air and catch the light. I thought it was lovely."

AFTER THIS U.S. TOUR is over, British Sea Power will record a new single, and shortly thereafter, a new album.

"If all goes well, it'll come out in the fall," Yan says, "but if it doesn't, then it could be any time.

"It's quite hard to describe [the new songs] at the moment. [But] our last album had some kind of infatuation with the coast and the sea, and kind of big, open expanses of horizon, and that kind of feeling. This one may reflect more of a kind of inland, enclosed, friendly-forest feel.

"I think if you've done something, you should try and find something else to do, basically. But all this could be complete bollocks, because this is all very new stuff. Especially lyrically, it's really not very progressed yet."

Author: Rick Massimo
Source: Projo
Date: 11th March 2004

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