British Sea Power have come a long way since their inception a decade ago, albeit in small steps from album to album. New release Valhalla Dancehall, their fourth album proper, continues the trend; it's evolution not revolution for this band of indie rockers. Theirs a lush, often orchestral brand of indie, bringing to mind Arcade Fire and at times Guillemots' first album. That's not to say BSP don't have a harder, rockier side too though.
On Valhalla Dancehall, fans will find the familiar mixture of intelligent, literary lyricism and broad anthemic indie-rock, but there is more of an edge to this release. British Sea Power don't sound proud to be British any more, and there is more of a politicised feel in their music as a result.
Opener Who's In Control leaps straight in at the heavier end of the BSP spectrum. It's a raucous protest song, really, with lead singer Yan declaring "I wish that protesting was sexy on a Saturday night", against a swarming mass of guitars. If you like this stuff then Mongk II picks up the rockier vibe and runs with it, for 5 minutes of howling guitars, and throbbing, textural noise. For me the best thing on the album.
For those of a more laid-back disposition though, the mid-album axis of Baby and Living Is So Easy will be more your thing. The former is a dreamy, lo-fi lullaby, the latter a more staid kind of protest song I suppose, against the sort of malaise of modern life.
As I've already suggested, I enjoyed the louder, livelier sections of Valhalla Dancehall, which seemed fuller, and more rounded than on previous British Sea Power releases. Some tracks left me wanting more though, more anger, more energy; I wondered why they couldn't keep it going for an entire album.
Ultimately perhaps the incongruity of a song like Who's In Control appearing on the same album as the pastoral pop of Baby, is just what sums up British Sea Power.
Final Score: 69%