British Sea Power’s last original studio album, Machineries of Joy, was released back in 2013. In the interim, they’ve put out two albums of reworked tracks – a selection of instrumentals for a coast-related documentary and a collaboration with a brass band – and produced a couple of soundtracks. But while they are adept at crafting atmospheric mood pieces and instrumentals as delicate as the natural world can be, they can also crank the guitars up and drive things home in far less subtle ways. Welcoming in 2017, BSP have returned with energetic rock.
Words by James McIntosh
For a band whose signature song ‘Waving Flags’ is a celebration of European connection and kinship in spite of borders, the political events of 2016 must have seemed especially problematic to BSP. You would assume that a group of musicians who sing “welcome in” at every gig they play would have something to say about such matters.
‘Bad Bohemian’ is the first track to be revealed from their forthcoming record, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party. It looks both backward and forward in its composition. The opening notes echo those that kicked off the last album before the track launches off into airy synth-backed guitars.
It harks back in places to mainstays of the new wave and post punk. The synths and lead in the chorus evokes The Cure. The muscular bass drives away in a manner reminiscent of New Order. The whole is reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen, who may be directly alluded to with the line “we’ll do it clean and true.”
Lyrically, Yan Wilkinson is fuelled by the world seemingly taking a turn for the worst over the past year. “You said the world was losing all its luster,” he begins. But while the future stretches out between Yan and his companion, “we decide if we want it to be cold.” There is a choice: you can sit around and bemoan how things are – easy for many to do who live comfortably in the Brighton area, or away from the tension up on the Isle of Skye – or you can do something about it.
A call to action, then. Don’t be a bad bohemian.
After the second chorus, things pick up further with a middle-eight catapulted with a crunchy guitar riff and hope. Yan’s vocals are at their best when he’s yelping like a man possessed or he’s being fragile and throaty. It’s the latter here, as he pleads “don’t let us die, while we are still alive.” And then he finishes with the mission statement. “We’ll do it fast, we’ll do it clean and true.”
Guitarist Martin Noble describes the album as perhaps their most coherent and direct to date, suggesting that this latest single should provide a decent indication of what to expect from Let the Dancers Inherit the Party.
“There wasn’t a plan to create an album with any particular subject matter but we’ve kind of ended up with a case of ’think global, act local’ – an album where individuals are dealing with their domestic and personal lives against a background of uncontrollable international lunacy,” he says.
“Elegant chaos” is a line used here that aptly sums up some of the best of BSP’s work so far. ‘Bad Bohemian’ fits snugly into the oeuvre thus far and gives hope that the new album, released on March 31st, is going to be another ace addition to their discography.
The track itself is guaranteed to be a highlight of the accompanying tour, which starts in Bristol on April 6. Although there’s no Brighton date as yet, they’ve announced hometown warm-up dates in the past, so anyone from the city who doesn’t want to risk the trains up to the capital should keep their eyes peeled.
April 6: Trinity Centre, Bristol
April 7: The Church, Leeds
April 8: Riverside, Newcastle upon Tyne
April 9: The Liquid Room, Edinburgh
April 11: Ritz, Manchester
April 12: Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
April 13: Academy 2, Birmingham