Review: British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy
Published on April 5th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
British Sea Power’s sixth album takes pinches of the relative scuzziness from 2011 predecessor Valhalla Dancehall and lets them loose amongst the washing sort of majesty that has largely characterised their output otherwise, leaving Rocksucker in no doubt that they satisfy most when they’ve got a bit of grit about them.
The set-opening title track is driving, graceful pop, subtly sophisticated of melody, agreeably thoughtful of lyric and boasting an ace bendy string arrangement, teeing up “K Hole” to sound like anything but. An urgent, beaming rocker, “K Hole” laments “I think I took a little too much” yet conversely is bristling with electrifying energy: there’s mental screaming, some Malkmus-y “oo oo”s…it really is tremendous.
“Hail Holy Queen” broods sweetly in its Mogwaiesque, minor key setting, before the Secret Machines-esque “Loving Animals (“I want you to know that it’s wrong, that”) decorates another driving pulse with monotone dots of bass and a lovely degree of dissonance. This leaner, fuzzier sound, evident on tracks like “Stunde Null”, “Mongk II” and “Thin Black Sail” from 2011 predecessor Valhalla Dancehall – oh, and “Spearing the Sunfish” from 2009’s instrumental soundtrack record Man of Aran – really is becoming of BSP, especially when it erupts into a frantic psychedelia of berserk ranting and whooping.
The major/minor alternations of “What You Need the Most” are hard not to make sound extremely derivative, especially in triplet-y arpeggio form, but BSP pull it off by weaving a moongazing spell somewhere between those of Pulp and Divine Comedy. “Monsters of Sunderland” (how topical!) explodes into a scuzzy, swirling squall, and then we get the ‘scuzzy U2’ of “Spring Has Sprung” (which it hasn’t) before “Radio Goddard” sees BSP revert to type with lush brass distinguishing its ornately orchestral pop.
“A Light Above Descending” kind of describes the song it titles, Yan’s agreeably textured vocal weaving sweet melody over the descending chorus progression, and then “When a Warm Wind Blows Through the Grass” brings the album back up to boiling point with its rumbling drums and foreboding, softly burning intensity. It makes for a strong end to an accomplished album, albeit one that sees British Sea Power inhabit their comfort zone just a little too often to really make waves.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Machineries of Joy is out now on Rough Trade. For more information, please click here to visit British Sea Power’s official website.