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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
British Sea Power
Do You Like Rock Music?
Rough Trade

Rating: 8.2/10 ?

February 8, 2008
After a well-received debut album (The Decline of British Sea Power) that was as 1990s-British-indie-rock as anything released by Manic Street Preachers and Suede, British Sea Power decided to curb their tendency toward big ideas. Their 2005 follow-up, Open Season, was a subtle experience that embraced Meat Loaf-inspired vocals but discarded any of the band's previous epic tendencies in favor of delicately constructed compositions.

Open Season wasn't all that bad, but in contrast Do You Like Rock Music? makes it clear that British Sea Power has once again made a conscious decision to return to its arena-friendly roots. On paper, such an album title can mean only one of two things: either British Sea Power is using this pretext to conceal some crafty new musical direction, or they really made a traditional rock record that takes some self-referential liberties.

As it turns out, the Brighton-based quartet takes the more candid route; the title is as genuine a question as it is an overstated one. Which is not to deny British Sea Power the right to play flag-bearing compositions (which they do without restraint). Nor it is an attempt to label this effort as ostentatious. Far from it. Just because the album is impassioned does not mean it is inflated. But isn't it a little lofty to voice such a question in the first place, with only a mere dozen tracks waiting in answer?

My concern is not to echo a sentiment for the sanctity of rock. Rather, I'm worried that this laudable effort will be overlooked by those pseudo-intellectual aficionados who fail to see the distinction between image and artifact. A whole subculture of connoisseurs in vintage plastic-framed eyeglasses and ironic thrift store shirts who may pass up objet d'art because of a grandiose concept.

In all reality, Do You Like Rock Music? hums. The band is bold enough to deliver a full collection of optimistic, upbeat ideas without overstating its case. Songs like "Lights Out For Darker Skies," "No Lucifer," and "Waving Flags" are each single-worthy, and that's not to mention they follow in succession after the introductory chant of "All In It."

Sure, British Sea Power shifts tempos, and they make good use of the shifts, as with the expansive buildup of percussion in the instrumental "The Great Skua," a song brimming with possibilities that never quite overflows into a great disarray of all of them. But the album is not a subtle exposition on choice. Its charm is that it makes a try of a multitude of ideas. And as British Sea Power's reputation foretells, the influences are aplenty even if they're hidden deep within the band's distinct sound.

Having shifted years on each of their previous outings, British Sea Power now play the part of the young, innocent sweetheart who buys flowers and then decides on chocolates, balloons, and stuffed animals to boot, loading up until his arms are full; if he drops one, he'll lose them all. Do You Like Rock Music? is a large, unabashed attempt at greatness, and where other bands might diffuse into a chaotic mess in the process (ahem, Broken Social Scene), British Sea Power remain, skillfully intact. That's something impressive from a compositional standpoint - regardless of whether or not they've rewritten the template for rock music.

Reviewed by Patrick Gill
In in a state of suspended adolescence, Patrick Gill can be found hiding away in northwest Ohio, where he spends most of his time rediscovering shoegaze, noise pop, britpop, slowcore, sadcore, lo-fi, neo-psychedelia, post-rock, trad rock, and trip-hop music. In his spare time he teaches college English.

See other reviews by Patrick Gill



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