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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

British Sea Power: "Do You Like Rock Music?"

Sometimes you're just a little late to the party. For whatever reason, this is my first time hearing British Sea Power. Oh sure, I had heard of them but Do You Like Rock Music? is my first real introduction to the band. From what I can tell, the band is uber-talented; featuring hypnotic rock vocals, loud distorted arrangements, and enough grandeur to make a monarch blush. Unfortunately, Do You Like Rock Music? just seems like a misguided effort at taking all those elements and blending them into a cohesive and memorable album. It's far from terrible, but if you're like me, you'll find it tough to get into but easy to forget.

Album opener, "All In It" is simply an introduction to the sound that British Sea Power is going for on Do You Like Rock Music? Taken in context of the question that the album begs, the only logical answer is, " better!" The line, "We're all in it and we close our eyes," is repeated throughout the length of this track like a mantra. An ever-building amalgam of indie rock, stadium rock, and atmospheric reverb completely envelopes it. When it finally does explode into something totally worth fussing about, most will find it a highly- effective intro.

"Lights Out For Darker Skies" is equally as impressive, though this time featuring more than a line's worth of lyrics. It's driving, non-stop electric guitar intro perfectly secedes to what turns out to be an impressive, yet catchy rock anthem. The line "We dance like sparks from the muzzle, " is one part catchy, one part genius, and is followed by an equally notable chorus ("Welcome for the day, I'll stay forever. There's things that we all need to navigate."). Several minutes in, the loud atmospheric rock collapses into a soothing bridge which eventually evolves back into a sound more becoming of the album's title. It is, by far, the standout track on the album.

From here, songs go back and forth between being memorable favorites and forgettable throwaways. "No Lucifer" is by no means a bad song, but it just sounds like the band is trying their best to evoke U2. That is far from my cup o' tea! And when the background vocals start emphatically chanting "Easy!" to no end, I just can't help but think I'd much rather hear one of Bono's ridiculous "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" ad-libs. At least those I can laugh at. "Waving Flags" picks things back up with guitar lead that sounds like the anthem to a 50s "Under the Sea" themed prom; albeit a cranked up to 11 and drunken version of one. Eventually though, the song is so grandiose and unflinching in its conviction that it sounds surprisingly similar to something Sigur Ros would put out. It's a very awesome song, and one that will stick with me longer than most.

After that, however, Do You Like Rock Music? heads nowhere but downward. Songs begin bleeding into one another, sounding annoyingly similar to one another. Others re-evoke U2, and some just blatantly rip off guitar riffs that you've heard in other songs before (the catchy riff in "Atom" is almost identical to that of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's "Is This Love?"). This is unfortunate because the first few songs on the album show such immense promise. But I can't help but express my lackluster feelings for "A Trip Out" or "The Great Skua." They're just so similar that it all becomes so bland and uninteresting.

And that, perhaps, is my biggest problem with Do You Like Rock Music?. After a few listens of the album, the magic is gone. Even the awesomeness of "Lights Out For Darker Skies" is voided due to the fact that you have to spend the next 50 minutes listening to stuff that sounds eerily similar, but a whole lot less enjoyable. There's no doubt in my mind that the guys of British Sea Power put a lot of work into this album, and I can definitely appreciate the effort. But as a newcomer to their music, there is very little about Do You Like Rock Music? that would compel me to check out their first two albums. This one just feels inspired for a few minutes before becoming utterly tedious. If I may quote the late Mitch Hedberg in finding a suitable comparison, Do You Like Rock Music? is like pancakes. "All exciting at first, but by the end, you're f***ing sick of them."

Key Tracks:
1. "Lights Out For Darker Skies"
2. "Waving Flags"
3. "Canvey Island"
4. "No Need to Cry"

5 out of 10 Stars

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