British Sea Power releases forgettable album

Daily Arts Writer
Published April 4, 2005

Open Season, the sophomore release from the England-based band British Sea Power, passionately waxes romantic: Their music is imbued with the optimism of the changing seasons. British Sea Power derives its artistic philosophy from the tense relationship between nature and technology. Like Keats or Coleridge, frontman Yan writes about the glory of natural scenery while bemoaning the spirit of the industrialized world.

If this antiquated approach sounds like it belongs in a poetry textbook rather than an album, you’re probably right. Both “Like a Honeycomb” and “North Hanging Rock” open with quaint bird chirpings; the album even concludes with the shrill squawk of a seagull — or was it a pelican? While many bands wail about the neglect and destruction of nature in modern life with a greater regard for nuance, British Sea Power pay no attention to compositional subtleties.

On “How Will I Ever Find My Way Home,” an oceanic atmosphere turns beneath Yan’s much-too-straightforward lyrics about the beauty of the night sky, the ugly symmetrical construction of the modern city and his love of the stars. The album’s theme resonates in “North Hanging Rock,” in which Yan commands the listener in a Dionysian tradition to “Drape yourself in greenery / Become part of the scenery.”

“Larsen B,” a tearful lamentation on the breakup of an enormous Antarctic shell of ice, is arguably the wittiest and most interesting piece on Open Season. Its silly content echoes a tortured love song from National Geographic, and it’s impossible not to chuckle as Yan cries, “You had 400 million years and now it’s over / Oh Larsen B / Oh fall on me.”

Musically, Open Season’s influences point toward the screechy guitars of The Pixies and the airy vocals of Belle and Sebastian. Despite the formula, British Sea Power arrives surprisingly short of anything provocative or even catchy. With the exception of the crashing choral arrangement on the final track, “True Adventures,” Open Season suffers from a general absence of rhythmic and harmonic dynamism. Yan’s voice retains its stuffy-nosed consistency throughout, and his lyrics rarely ever deviate from a comfortable rhyme scheme.

Despite British Sea Power’s notoriety for onstage antics (luscious natural sets and military garb for the band), their music rarely, if ever, reflects the daring stage show. While Open Season is objectively decent, there’s something about Yan’s seventh-grade-level rebelliousness that irritates and grates upon successive listenings. British Sea Power fails to create an interesting sound, and ultimately, are an expendable band.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars