Album review: British Sea Power, "Valhalla Dancehall"
Nearly a decade into its career, British Sea Power is at a point where it can rely neither on buzz band hype nor nostalgia to create interest, which puts the band in a tough spot, since those are the two driving forces in indie music today. But it also shouldn't faze a band that has soldiered on free of any time-sensitive influences, happily cranking out mildly absurdist near-epics on its own schedule. "Valhalla Dancehall" is the group's fifth album, and if it doesn't exactly shed any new light on the band's sound, it proves that it can still be an exciting one when the elements mix properly.
The ability to naturally create drama has always been the band's greatest strength. Primary vocalist Yan favors a near breathless bellow, and when guitarist Hamilton catches fire, each note he plays sounds like the climax of a stadium-rock solo. The combination is on display in "Who's in Control," a song that crams as many peaks into its three minutes as can be found on the rest of the album. It could be mistaken for an Arcade Fire song, except for the fact that it doesn't browbeat you with an Important Message about an Important Subject. Yan's take on politics: "Sometimes I wish protesting was sexy on a Saturday night!" at the song's crucial moment. It's more likely to trigger a temple scratch than a fist pump.
"We Are Sound" and "Stunde Null" are a bit more conventional - soft-loud surges play a major role in both songs - but, like the rest of the album, succeed thanks to BSP's sense of dynamics. "Valhalla Dancefloor" might simply be the band's best album since the last one and until the next one, but British Sea Power's comfort zone isn't a bad place to stay.
Recommended tracks: "Who's in Control," "We Are Sound," "Stunde Null"
| January 11, 2011; 10:40 AM ET
Categories: Quick spins | Tags: British Sea Power
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