Often, I think as a reader that it is important for you to know the reviewer's history listening to the band that they are writing about. I believe this helps one to get a feel if the subject is for them, and also so the reviewer is actually being honest, as in not pretending they are a know-it-all.
I should start out by saying that I do not know everything about British Sea Power. I first heard about them almost a year ago, about right around the time this album came out here in the States. The reviews of their first album, as you may know, said they were akin to the dark-and-gloomy acts of Joy Division and Echo and the Bunneymen, just with more noise and a pop element.
Well, when I bought this album when it first came out due to the hype, even if I never heard their prior ones (and to date I still have not heard their first two), I was still quite surprised that this ominousness is now mostly drowned out in favor of U2-inspired anthems. The lyrics may be dark, but everything -- to the polished instrumentals, to the singer's chimed voice -- was quite like an arena rock band dishing out anthem after anthem. I was befuddled, as I am a big fan of my depression/razorblade-across-arm music and thus put the album down for a long while.
However, a little while later I found out that they were playing a show close to me. I don't know why, but I found myself at this concert barely knowing anything about the band. I had heard wild things about some of their other venue performances and was expecting to have a good time. Again, I was disappointed; the show was nothing special. In fact, I was more paying attention to my throbbing legs from standing in place during their act than the performance for most of the duration.
I have to admit that the live show was partly not as great as it could have been due to the venue they played in, its status in the city and how many people were actually at this show. Maybe the band just didn't care as much.
However, I remember the song that briefly seized my mind from my leg pain was called "The Spirit of St. Louis." This scorcher is so damn good live, that I can't ever throw enough adjectives its way, so I just won't bother. Yet, the song which shows them just cut loose and rock out, is a good reference point to Do You Like Rock Music?, as it shows what often makes this album both work and not work.
It should be said that Rock Music's first few songs are almost as good as that aforementioned song, yet in a different way. The songs are less noisy, not as cool and slick, yet more organic. In that, it may slightly be standard indie rock, but are also done par-excellence. The jump-starter track, "All in It," walks a good line between being mood-setting and an all-out rocker. The second song, "Lights Out for Darker Skies," is an epic: Grand guitar lines weaving around whimsy vocals and un-clammy bass and steady drums, it's the stuff great albums are made of. "No Lucifer" is a chanting tribal fire of wit and passion, filled to the brim with anthemia, melody and pure indie rock classiness.
It begins to get slightly redundant with "Waving Flags," but still sells. Yet, after that, it settles down, as "Canvey Island" and "No Need to Cry" are probably too subtle for their own good. "A Trip Out" is drowned in too much murk and "Open the Door" doesn't properly rise until it's almost too late.
The female vocal-laden "Down on the Ground" may also seem slightly out of place and unwanted, but it's Atom that reminds you that the band can go places when they combine both rocking out with epic indie rock for something that is truly memorable. Aside from the breath-catching and beautiful "The Great Skua," their experiments do not work; "We Close Our Eyes" is one, but since it's a closing track it can easily be skipped.
In the end, Do You Like Rock Music? is damn fine in spots, but the question it presents is answered. Ya, I like rock music, I like it just fine…although, that is, when it, well, rocks.
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