A guest posting from Tim Badger
Drape Yourself in Greenery – A British Sea Power Imaginary Compilation.
I love British Sea Power, I love the way that they sing songs about ice caps, the coastline, George Orwell, places in Bhutan and insects. I love the way that they play gigs in caves, embrace small festivals (including running their own at the Uk’s highest pub The Tan Hill Inn), run their own crazy club nights in which the basically tested songs from their next album and then sold them as limited edition EP’s, and soundtrack films about Britain. I love the way that they have taken a brass band on tour with them, and then done gigs with them in small mining towns and then made an album of their songs rearranged into brass. I love the way that when I saw them live a few years back they had a poet supporting them. I love the way that they recently appeared on comfy middle class Sunday night TV programme ‘Countryfile’ and didn’t once come across as pretentious rock stars trying to be cool. They went on it because they were fans of the show. I love the way in which they support authors, write books about their mums, and set up their own Book Club. Oh and I love their merchandise. I think that’s everything – oh I’m quite keen on the viola player too. That is definitely everything. Nope, hang on – One last thing – I love the way that ‘Open Season’ the second BSP album has a secret track on it that up until 17 seconds ago, I didn’t even know existed.
I first saw British Sea Power at the Cavern Club in Exeter, this was three days after the single ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ was released and I adored their raw Pixies-ish sound, a sound that has mellowed over the year. I was hooked instantly. I’ve seen them on every tour that they have done ever since and once travelled to Worthing to see them play in a 1930’s art deco jazz venue housed on a pier. I’ve also seen them in a cave, at several festivals and an old abandoned hospital. I’ve also danced with a 9ft polar bear during the filming of a video of theirs, but I’m not saying which one.
A couple of weeks ago British Sea Power was announced as the headline act of the Sea Change Festival in Totnes. I was in Totnes and spoke to the guy in the record shop organising the festival – I asked him how he got British Sea Power to headline a festival where the biggest venue will be a 500 capacity Arts Centre, he said he baked them a cake shaped like a duck and they accepted on the basis of that alone. I think he was joking.
I’ll shut up here for fear of being labelled an indie schmindie fanboy by all and sundry. But if you are fed up with gloomy no personality rock bands, then BSP will rescue you.
Here is my imaginary compilation – with four additional tracks that I just couldn’t find the heart to leave out – that can be released separately as an EP – but I’ll get the band to launch it at a club night housed in a docked submarine or something.
North Hanging Rock (from Open Season)
Beneath the tiny quiet piano chords and some graceful arcs of feedback you can make out the twittering of birds and the crushing of leaves underneath some feet. Then you hear a whisper and Yan the singer starts ‘Drape yourself in greeney, become part of the scenery’. He is singing about death of course, but he could be singing about anything – it’s just a lovely lovely track.
Observe the Skies (from Valhalla Dancehall)
One of the bands more radio friendly tracks, and one that I find myself humming every time I hear it. It makes really good use of some keyboards and is a close to a conventional pop record as you will get from British Sea Power.
Hail Holy Queen (from Machineries of Joy)
Hail Holy Queen is apparently an homage to a French Body Builder turned erotic movie star. This song I think underlines the quieter side to the band brought about by the introduction of the aforementioned viola player (Abi Fry) – here you get Hamilton on vocal duties and he uses this mysterious falsetto to warbles “I’m at your feet/I’m at your command/Hail Holy Queen of the scene” and then you get this viola that meanders along and I think it sounds almost exactly like ‘Venus In Furs’ by the Velvet Underground and that makes it one of their finest ever songs.
Remember Me (from The Decline of British Sea Power)
If you needed proof that British Sea Power are actually fantastic, then this their first proper single emphatically proves the argument. ‘Remember Me’ has the possibly the most urgent, compelling and exciting opening to a record that I have heard. There must be a full 90 seconds of pounding drums, guitars and seaside sound effects before you even hear a single word uttered. A swirling psychedelic fury filled bastard of a song, a song according to my blogging partner swc, that is so good is sounded like Joy Division had reformed.
Like A Honeycomb (from Open Season)
The first three tracks of ‘Open Season’ are a whirl of backbeats, guitars and knackered sounding synthesizers, then you get ‘Like A Honeycomb’. A track that sounds like it was recorded for high school proms, that switches between synths and folky strumming and vocals that stamp all over a chorus – you get Yan vocals on this one “In between the morning and the evening light/That’s how the days go by” – and you get the lyrics delivered with gruff abandon. It’s wonderful.
Waving Flags (from Do You Like Rock Music)
A massive call to arms, the band re released this last year at the time of the election as an Anti UKIP record. This is a song that urges unity and wants us to welcome our European cousins who were at the time arriving in the Uk. The message is one of reassurance, that we can all be friends, live and work together like a happy family. Indeed, do one Farage.
No Lucifer (from Do You Like Rock Music).
Possibly the greatest example of the lyrical brilliance of BSP – this rears up full of brawn and gusto and the cries out “give me the dummy, tit” and then you get surrounded by the familiar chants of “Easy” – which I am told is a tribute to Shirley Crabtree, a wrestler better known as Big Daddy – who used to knock people over with his massive belly.
Stunde Null (from Valhalla Dancehall)
Apparently the titled refers to the zero hour in Germany at which World War II ended. Again this is a Yan song in which he sounds almost triumphant when declaring that “You’ve been on standby for half a century” and you get this fuzzy bass and those synths again before the song soars upward in a this wonderful chorus and those great punky guitars again.
Down on the Ground (from Krankenhaus EP)
Down On The Ground should have been a massive hit but for some reason they chose to hide this track as track three on the wonderful ‘Krankenhaus EP’ – behind the equally excellent ‘Atom’ (see below) – but again here is an example of some of the fine tracks that this band record and seemingly just chuck away. This song made me smile almost as much as I did when I got given a toy aeroplane to play with when I was four.
Lately (from The Decline of British Sea Power)
Well I can’t think of a better way to end the album. The rocks in at nearly fourteen minutes evolving from a simple guitar melody into a geological chant of “Do You like my megalithic rock” then “Do you Like My prehistoric Rock” and so on – and then descends into a full on Mogwai style guitar wall of noise.
Become Part of the Scenery – The Free EP
So there are four songs that I wanted to include but had to leave off – here they are
Atom – (from Krankenhaus)
Simply because the line “When you get down to the subatomic part of it, that’s when it breaks you know, that’s when it falls apart” is too good a line to ignore.
2. Favours In the Beetroot Fields (from The Decline of British Sea Power)
3. When a Warm Wind Blows Through the Grass (from Machineries of Joy)
4. Carrion (from the Decline…)
And there we have it. I could have done several of these if I am honest. Please enjoy and buy all of their albums tomorrow.
mp3 : British Sea Power – North Hanging Rock
mp3 : British Sea Power – Observe The Skies
mp3 : British Sea Power – Hail Holy Queen
mp3 : British Sea Power – Remember Me
mp3 : British Sea Power – Like A Honeycomb
mp3 : British Sea Power – Waving Flags
mp3 : British Sea Power – No Lucifer
mp3 : British Sea Power – Stunde Nulle
mp3 : British Sea Power – Down On The Ground
mp3 : British Sea Power – Lately
mp3 : British Sea Power – Atom
mp3 : British Sea Power – Favours In The Beetroot Fields
mp3 : British Sea Power – When A Warm Wind Blows Through The Grass
mp3 : British Sea Power – Carrion
BSP were on my list of bands to feature in an ICA but when Tim offered to do this, I willingly stepped aside. I’m a big fan of the band, owning most of their records and catching them live on four occasions. Tim however, is a bit of an uber-fan but he’s not alone in this regard as they are the sort of band that really do attract a devoted following,
I think this is down to a combination of factors such as their constantly innovative approach to their craft with every album being different in style from its predecessor, the wit and intelligence of the song-writing, the blistering live shows which usually involve some sort of crowd participation or just simply that they are a perfect cult band content to make people happy at the price of not chasing commercial success.
In his accompanying e-mail to this piece, Tim said ‘I loved every minute of writing this.’ That certainly comes through in the writing. He also hinted that it broke his heart for two other named songs not to make the cut. Well, I’m not having that:-
mp3 : British Sea Power – The Pelican
mp3 : British Sea Power – Canvey Island