Let’s face it, for the nation who gave the world The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Britpop was a bit like a relative that says embarrassing things at Christmas time, but at least it was a truly British scene and the kids could directly relate to the music. There hasn’t been a band since that has managed to capture the national zeitgeist like Blur’s Parklife did.
British Sea Power, however, seem determined to make up for this, as their debut album, The Decline Of British Sea Power carries throws up a North Sea spray of bruised rock songs evoking memories of Michael Fish’s hurricane, rainy summer holidays in Blackpool and the M6 with a fond smile of recognition that we’re not a great nation but we may as well embrace it anyway. Add to that the ironic references to our dead naval history, and you get the china figurine of a quaint island that even the most vehement anti-nationalist would put on their mantle piece.
The record starts with a beautiful choral arrangement before crashing into the harrowing bass driven Apologies To Insect Life, and the John Spenceresque Favours In The Beetroot Fields, before settling into a more melodic and reflective mood towards the highlight tracks, The Lonely and Carrion, which are both brilliantly written melodic rock songs. The Lonely is begun with guitarist Noble’s fine riff, and weeping feedback adorns the verse and chorus whilst Carrion, following a similar formula, maintains its individuality in the quality of its writing. Yan’s idiosyncratic vocals quiver and break like a war veteran at a memorial service, as he sings the brickabrack of lyrics that reference "Scapa Flow" and the "Casio Electric Piano". The record drifts away on the last track, A Wooden Horse, a soft head nodder.
This is a very good record, varied and inventive, but with a strong character that usurps the allusions to British heritage that are strewn around; there is more subtlety, and you recognise it like deja vu. Only time will tell, but The Decline Of British Sea Power could prove to be one of the most inappropriate debut titles ever.