British Sea Power
volution is something we generally like to see in music; no one wants to hear the same record being made over and over again, let alone one from the same act. British Sea Power’s 2003 debut album, The Decline Of British Sea Power was full of noise and feedback and screaming; the follow-up, 2005’s Open Season saw them tone down the noise and added subtle layers to their sound. So what does British Sea Power ca. 2007 sound like then?
The five-track Krankenhaus? EP serves as a stop-gap until the new LP, Do You Like Rock Music? arrives in early 2008, and also as a means to keep this previously über-hyped act at least somewhat in the public eye. With two tracks from the forthcoming LP (with leadoff cut “Atom” here in an edited version), three exclusives, and two videos (“Water Tower,” a short film, and a live clip of “The Spirit of St. Louis”), there’s certainly enough material here to give a decent idea of what direction the band is heading in now. Unfortunately, it seems they are moving backwards rather than forwards.
The aforementioned “Atom” and “Down On the Ground” are both from the new LP, and both display a slicker and glossier sound, but not in a good way. The guitars are upfront and distorted, but they lack the bite and invention of the debut, and the subtlety and texture of their sophomore effort. In fact, they sort of sound like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin played on 33 rather than 45. In short, not promising.
Maybe the pressure to deliver on the promise and press accolades of their previous albums after such a long lay off has driven the band to go for a new commercial sound on the new album—time will tell if the rest of the LP follows this trend. But the other three cuts on this release are great. “Straight Down the Line,” led by a bopping little organ riff and marked by a woozy, subaquatic mix that’s light years more interesting sonically than the previous two tracks, is a loose and creative little ditty that is precisely the sort of cut that gives LPs depth and feel beyond singles and bombast. The two-minute “Hearing Aid” is haunting and spare before it explodes into climax; the nine-minute “The Pelican” is raw, frenetic, and powerful. It doesn’t speak well of the album that the sneak previews from it are handily trumped by the other three cuts here.
If the intention of this EP was to give an update on the progress of our heroes, Krankenhaus? ultimately provides more questions than answers. I’ve heard enough potential here to at least check out the album when it arrives; hopefully the good stuff wasn’t all spent on this release.