Originally published: Clash magazine
Two days after the release of their fifth album Valhalla Dancehall, British Sea Power are in a celebratory mood. A bucket of chilled Budvar bottles destined for the stage squeezes past the two hundred fans that are crammed into the Barfly. The fans jostle like matchsticks in a box ready to catch fire at the mere sight of Brighton-based six-piece’s return. The exitement is palpable through the veneer of sweat that lines the walls.
“Shall we do this then?” a bearded Scott ‘Yan’ Wilkinson poses to the crowd as the band dutifully break into ‘Who’s In Control’, the opening track from their new album. “Oh, were you not told/Do you not know/Everything around you is being sold,” Yan poignantly declares as its opening lines. Tapping into the political state we’re in with all the delicacy of disgruntled student with a two-by-four, the hook-laden number builds and breaks beautifully to a choral cry of “Sometimes I wish protesting was sexy on a Saturday night”.
The band wastes little breath throughout their 70-minute set, dedicating most of it to giving new tracks a good airing. Defined by their ingenuity, identity and experimental detail, they neatly weave together a tapestry of juxtaposed sounds and sentiments throughout. From proto-punk (‘Stunde Null’, ‘Mongk II’, ‘Thin Black Sail’), to piano-led meanderings (‘Georgie Ray’), to celestial pop (‘We Are Sound’, ‘Observe The Skies’), British Sea Power prove that they are as chaotic and calming as ever.
Whereas their new material may have fallen upon deaf ears – despite being duly admired by a sea of nodding heads – it was down to old favourites like ‘No Lucifer’, ‘Carrion’ and ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’ to kindle the crowd on the night. Given time, however, Valhalla Dancehall will kick up the fires and let the flames loose in the very same way.