Let the Dancers Inherit the Party is an album which seeks to reconcile the easy accessibility of British Sea Power’s mid-career anthems with the creeping atmospheres that characterise their soundtracks, whilst simultaneously professing a new penchant for dance rock.
|Artist: British Sea Power
Album Title: Let the Dancers Inherit the Party
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Caroline International
British Sea Power has always unwittingly played the role of the archetypal cult band in the pantheon of British rock bands that emerged in the noughties. Brit rock reached its zenith as it went through its second genesis with Frank Ferdinand, Kasabian and The Kaiser Chiefs occupying the space that Blur, Oasis and Pulp had forged in the 90s. British Sea Power to an extent piggybacked off this cultural shift which also drew from the wellspring of garage rock bands that emerged from the New York Scene a few years prior, the most notable example being The Strokes. BSP’s first record was thrashy, rough and raw with loose nautical themes that gave the band its identity.
As the band rose to prominence on the periphery of more popular yet somewhat comparable bands they honed their sound, sharpening the edges, polishing the surfaces, pushing the maritime vibes more strongly and ultimately becoming bigger and more anthemic, akin to a gruffer Arcade Fire (who were already becoming stadium fillers). Yet even at the band’s height of fame (a term used loosely here) they never really translated well outside of their core fan base, who of course were avid devotees bringing tree branches and flags to every concert. BSP are the kind of a band you either know or you don’t (without trying to state the obvious).
I had the pleasure of catching them at Shepherd’s Bush Empire this summer and it was a hell of a lot of fun, with dancing bears and shrubbery aplenty. The crowd was surprisingly ferocious as their biggest hits (“Remember Me”, “Lights Out for Darker Skies”, “No Lucifer”) lit up the room. It was a set that ignored their fantastic soundtrack work that’s made up the bulk of the second half of their musical career.
With Let the Dancers Inherit the Party we have an album which seeks to reconcile the easy accessibility of their mid-career cathartic anthems with the creeping atmospheres that characterise their soundtracks, whilst simultaneously professing a new penchant for dance rock. The opening intro sounds like it could’ve been lifted from 2009s Man of Aran and links nicely with the gentle, piano-led closer. Half of the songs dress themselves as A-sides, with singles “Keep on Trying (Sechs Freunde)” and “Bad Bohemian” being the band’s best stand-alone tracks in years. The former is a dance rock inspired playful romp, lyrically cheeky and heavily rhythmic. The hook is instantly memorable just like it is on “Bad Bohemian”, which at first may come across as generic before it seeps into your conscience and keeps you humming it for days.
The great melodies aren’t just consigned to the singles though. “The Voice of Ivy Lee”, “Don’t Let the Sun Get in the Way”, and “International Space Station” sustain the interest throughout the track list and make the slower numbers more digestible. The fact that this record is perfectly poised between catchy, upbeat entertainment and quieter but more textural and detailed tracks makes it surprisingly eclectic and enjoyable.
It’s sad to be surprised that a band like British Sea Power could produce a record as good as this so late in their career, particularly because so many of their contemporaries seem to be dwindling and losing their way. Lead singer, Yan still seems to be on top form in terms of song writing prowess and singing, with his melodies going gleefully up and down the scale. Secondary vocalist, Hamilton puts in a reasonable shift as well even if his tracks are more forgettable. The only upset is that the rough theme of space travel is for the most part lost on the listener unless you really pay attention, but BSP aren’t the kind of band you’ll enjoy more if you examine closely. The package as a whole is neat and serviceable, giving hope for the band going forward that still clearly has a lot to achieve.