Mainly Genius

Review: British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall

British Sea Power - Valhalla DancehallTo release a difficult second album is never the easiest thing but unfortunately it’s a hurdle that must be negotiated if third and fourth albums are in the pipeline. For British Sea Power though, that must seem like a distant memory – their fourth Studio album (and fifth if you include 2009’s soundtrack to the film Man of Aran) entitled Valhalla Dancehall was released last month and despite a couple of slightly disappointing EPs between it’s predecessor, comes out as one of the gems of the first 31 days of this new decade.

Released on 10th January and charting at number 22 the following week, the build-up was somewhat subdued and thanks to the aforementioned EPs, was perhaps being approached with a slight air of caution.

Third album Do You Like Rock Music? was until now the Brighton-based group’s best release and following advert-ready singles Waving Flags and No Lucifer was also their most successful. However, what we didn’t know was that it was all a lie  – a clever ruse to make us think they could never better themselves. And they fooled us.

The album picks up almost exactly where Do You Like Rock Music? left off, the first two tracks are over in a guitar driven flash and it’s not until Georgie Ray that things begin to settle down. Fusing a now signature sound of spaced out choirs and building drums with frontman Yan’s most commanding performance yet is a joy – and feeding on the power of the whirlwind of the previous two tracks actually increases the song’s presence rather than diminishing it. The measured breaks and slow-building, Sigur Ros hinting arrangement grip the listener and fills what was crashing guitars with a bigger, solid wash of melody.

Luna follows a similar pattern and Observe the Skies is this album’s No Lucifer but the real winner is first single Living is So Easy. Despite the odds, Yan’s half-baritone voice is always the focus of attention and despite the excitement that surrounds it, he makes the most of what’s really a very simple refrain. It’s also a tribute to the band (and frustrating to many a songwriter) that such simple chord patterns and melodies can be stripped of their blandness, have their basic nature disguised and ultimately transformed into a perfect example of all that’s positive about guitar music – and British Sea Power.

Without wishing it to sound negative, this album is very much like it’s predecessor. The thing about that though is the quality of said predecessor is one of the best of it’s genre and as the old saying goes – don’t repair, what hasn’t been damaged (or something…).

Valhalla Dancehall builds on an excellent base and actually, more importantly, improves on it. The vocals are more defined and confident, the guitars are louder, thrashier and yet fully under control and the real quality and consistency of their craft runs a thread from start to finish.

Some might argue (neé insist) that I’ve gone a bit gushy on you lot and whether that’s true or not will be decided and the days plough on – but for now, I would recommend that you donate some time to listen to the tracks featured below – before I start gushing more superlatives all over them…

Visit British Sea Power.

Buy the album from Amazon or iTunes.

Socialise them on TwitterFacebook or Myspace.

Two great tracks from Valhalla Dancehall for your listening pleasure – vintage BSP (as us in the biz call them) in first single Living is So Easy and the closest they’ll ever come to a ballad in Georgie Ray.

British Sea Power – Living is So Easy


British Sea Power – Georgie Ray


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[…] 7. British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall (Released 10th January, full review here) […]

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