erasing clouds

British Sea Power, The Decline of British Sea Power (Rough Trade)

reviewed by john wenzel

This much-heralded album steams out of the port with "Men Together Today," a low-key choral answer to all the '80s throwback crap we're forced to slog through these days. Something in the restrained delivery glimmers with promise, catching the ear at just the right angles. Then the battle horn is blown and this Brighton quintet explodes with the deliciously textured squall of "Apologies to Insect Life." Piercing blasts of white guitar and blue-gray drumming follow lead singer Yan's histrionic blend of Black Francis and Ian Svenonius. You start to get excited about the glorious possibilities of mixing these carefully-controlled shrieks and experimental chords with swelling waves of rhythm and pseudo-highbrow themes. You hear about how these guys dress up in WWI uniforms and regularly pipe in forest sounds during their live set. Brilliantly gimmicky or laughably pretentious? You don't care as long as the music's good.

Unfortunately, the album loses steam on only the fourth track, the lackluster "Something Wicked," and never regains it. Taking moody cues from Bradbury and Shakespeare, "Something Wicked" is a deflation of everything positive about the first three tracks. Sounding like Peter Murphy doing an even worse Bowie impression that usual, Yan warbles and croons through the rest of this shitty, boring album, his devotion to New Wave tediousness bordering on religious. Were the opening tracks just covers of a better band's songs? Where are the impassioned guitars and frenetic drumming? The chugging rhythms and wild vocalizations? All lost, I'm afraid, to the deep generic organs and tuneless choruses.

The insufferable "Lately" approaches 14 minutes, and finally you're spent. There's nothing here to redeem the promise of the album's openers, and your patience wears thin trying to make sense of the stale melodies. I can't count the number of reviews in which this album was called "brilliant" in one way or another. Ugh. If this is brilliant, then everything on Drag City is "earnest." Get this fucking crap away from me before I start feeling sorry for it.

Issue 18, December 2003

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds