British Sea Power - Valhalla Dance Hall
Alex Nelson 14/01/2011
British Sea Power are one of those bands who feel like they should've been around for ages. With an unshakable following of die-hard fans who cling to every nuance of every release like ivy, you'd be forgiven for thinking these guys were some of indie-rock's finest dinosaurs, a plethora of obscure releases in their back catalogue for you to dip your toes into should you so wish. Not so.
Valhalla Dancehall is but British Sea Power's fifth studio release, but it is easy to see why people get so excited about them. Comparisons are always abound to the anthemic multi-instrumentation of Montreal's Arcade Fire, and their rousing, oft beautiful paeans are enthralling to say the least and easy to fall in love with and indeed, to. From the rousing over-confidence of the opening chords of inaugural album track 'Who's In Control' - eschewing its hoppy sensibilities in favour of lyrics like "over here/over there/over here/every fuckin' where" - to the metallic bass/viola combination of closer 'Heavy Water', the album is full of standout tracks, each more majestic and magnificent than the last and containing more hooks than a tackle box.
First single 'Living Is So Easy' jangles its way through its pleasant four-minute running time, Yan's vocals exhibiting an almost Followill-like growl as the song becomes the perfect soundtrack to the pre-party jitters. 'Observe The Skies' is classic 90s indie-rock with that all too frequent Win Butler comparison thrown in, and 'Stunde Null' displays BSP at their uneasy, full-throttle best; a patch lead fizzes before being drowned out by ferociously inharmonious guitars and hauntingly hoary group vocals.
All in all, British Sea Power's fifth studio effort is a solid body of work, full of all manner of tempos, timbres and volumes but always managing to retain a certain spark to its semblances. One of the first great albums of the year.