June 14th 2015
‘in our world there is nothing eccentric about plastic owls, huge dancing bears, reading books, mangled and brilliant heart breaking poetry and ornithology – it’s the other stuff that everyone else goes on about that is actually weird.’ LTW boss and Membranes frontman John Robb is enthralled by the genius of British Sea Power
Of course all the greatest bands create these strange little worlds for you to go and co-exist in.
Parallel micro universes were there are all kinds of new certainties far away from the mundane terror of modern life.
British Sea Power are a perfect example of this. A nuanced, lightly toasted, quark reality mix of rainy day melancholy, rousing eternal youthful anthems, well thumbed natural history annuals and lyric that pop and crack with an unusual and poetic brilliance. This is world of Pinewood film studio Blighty, a gloriously eccentric place of wildfowl and waders and a stage covered in branches of trees and twigs and foliage of local city parks collected by the tour manager before the gigs.
The stripped bare local parks are the gigs gain – the foliage adds a warmth to the stark electric interior of many venues and the wood and leaves and the wonder of nature frame the band in the middle with their intense yet gentle brilliance echoing around the venue as they wade thought heir brilliant debut The Decline Of british Sea Power album.
They even employ a superfan to dance around as a nine for bear and what’s even better is that it doesnt look wrong or annoying or like an episode of It’s A knockout gone wonky – it actually looks like a nine foot tall dancing bear boisterously crowd surfing or furrily frugging away behind the band.
There are feathered and lightly stuffed long eared owls staring sternly down at the crowd and the whole gig oozes a twisted national geographic vibe that is so far away from the dull posturing of rock n roll that it feels perfect and doesn’t detract to the songs emotional ooze.
The debonair band are a mix of plucky Scott in the Arctic wardrobe and bare footed eccentricity. The run through their epic debut album is reminder that they have been with us for a few years now – gloriously off kilter and very anglo eccentric they don’t even seem to realise just unhinged they look but command that neat trick of writing classic guitar pop to soundtrack their perfect madness.
Tonight they celebrate this history with a full inversion of that debut album that shows just how timeless their muse is.
This gig is about the future past and a chance to take stock of their career or proof that perfect music defies time. The album may be years old but it could have been released last week or thirty years ago. British Sea Power don’t really deal in boring stuff like time or careers. The album is presented with that off kilter balance between sly humour and huge enveloping melancholic vistas that it is a perfect place to get lost in.
The songs sound enormous, the sound is perfect and the band stand there slyly bemused by their own power. They don’t ‘throw shapes’ they just deliver infernal beauty with a slightly bemused air. There is madness in their area and some strange times have gone down in their camp but they remain fresh faced and fantastically detached from the sweaty whines of rock roll as they they switch from the crystalline guitars of their pieces to an intense Pixies style noise or the chiming spindly indie paranoia.
Remember me is the cue to dance as one of the album’s singles cruises along with its almost Dinosaur Jnr rush of guitar filth just to remind you that British Sea Power can rock out with Martin Noble’s lead guitar throwing flames and resonating emotional spree bulged up by the reverb. The closest the band have to a frontman, Jan Scott Wilkinson, wiggle his dusty toes as he stand barefoot with a white gown that ddss to his monk like air whilst the irreparable keys man Eamon Hamilton decides that crowd surfing is more fun that playing keyboards after only two songs.
The guitars are hauntingly crystalline and perfect and the songs are frozen in time with a spectral and haunting beauty. They sound like the perfect rainy day and with a rare and genuine beauty but still pack a punch like forefathers Echo and the Bunnymen do at their greatest moments. They write the kind of perfect psychedelic tinged guitar pop that made the Stone Roses the totem band of another generation but knowingly avoided the path to the centre of their own times and stayed frozen in their own perfect cult status. They deal that kind of north west guitar haze and even if the band reallocated to Brighton from their home town of Kendal a long time back they still feel very much part of our local geography and maybe that’s why they get such a heroic welcome in the sold out Ritz tonight.
They remind me of that ancient order of Brit eccentric music lineage, those homegrown Beefhearts and too smart to live types whose high IQ and intelectual leanings got bored of the normal narrative and created their own smirking revenge on the plodding mundanities of trad rock. Bands like the long lost Bogshed or many of those quirky post punk bands or the English settlement of XTC or even Morrissey – not that they sound like any of these bands or characters -they seem to have found a place of their own to quirk out but they share a spirit- a very English, very corn circle, very home grown way to reflect their own enticing world.
The second half of tonight’s two hour epic sees the band return to the stage for a run though of a choice selection of the rest of their career and albums and a journey though an on going perfection.
Huge enveloping anthems sometimes pack the muscular punch of the Manic Street Preachers and the Welsh band’s sensitivity but are laced with a perfect eccentricity that prevents stadium filling boredom and leaves the band popular but just out of reach because in BSP world and, to be honest, in our own worlds there is nothing eccentric about plastic owls, huge dancing bears, reading books, mangled and brilliant heart breaking poetry and ornithology – it’s the other stuff that everyone else goes on about that is actually weird.