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British Sea Power: Valhalla Dancehall


British Sea Power

Album: Valhalla Dancehall
Label: Rough Trade

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Boasting a title only slightly less silly than 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music?, British Sea Power’s fourth album sends the Brighton eccentrics’ arena-rock aspirations heavenward: In the band’s own words, Valhalla Dancehall is meant to evoke “Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Thor having a great time together” in the afterlife. Fortunately, there are no Norse-metal dub remixes here, but Valhalla does further the once-evasive band’s increasingly egalitarian ambitions, with an emphasis on evangelical swells, big guitar hooks, and the BSP’s most inviting vocal melodies yet. The synth-driven ditty “Living Is So Easy”—with its simple chorus about Northern girls and Southern boys “going to the party”—may be scoffing at rich-kid vapidity, but it’s seducing them too, the same way the opener, “Who’s In Control,” finds Hamilton Wilkinson barking “Sometimes I wish protesting was sexy on a Saturday night!” like a snide Jarvis Cocker. And yet it’s also a genuinely fist-pumping, wild-in-the-streets anthem. There’s a noticeable lack of oblique historical and scientific references this time (the annihilation anxiety of the Pixies-ish “Stunde Null” comes closest), with an emphasis on pure emotion in songs like the mid-tempo ballad for a manic pixie dream girl “Luna,” the seductive whisper “Baby,” and the florid funeral march of “Cleaning Out The Rooms.” That simplicity doesn’t translate to the music—which continues to pile on the backing choirs, electronic squiggles, and never-ending ethereal builds—but Valhalla adds an even more alluring undertow to the band’s usual crashing wave.