The Zodiac, Oxford
15th October 2002
Things you should know about Brighton-based quartet British Sea Power: hailing mainly from the Lake District, their influences include Field Marshal Montgomery and Czech culture. They used to present their own eclectic night, Club Sea Power, monthly in Brighton. Their stage is bedecked with antlers and life-size plastic birds. They shun introductory music in favour of a reading by CS Lewis. Singer Yan, seemingly too small for a front man but given considerable gravitas by an intense stare and an echoing Bowie/Brett Anderson-ish howl, takes the stage in a brown tunic, with his brother, bassist Hamilton, guitarist Noble and drummer Wood in quasi-military garb.
However, it is their music which speaks the most about British Sea Power. With their martial onstage demeanour, every gig is a performance; they have a peculiarly captivating stage presence, and describe themselves as “high church amplified rock music”. There are some reference points: the group’s uniforms recall early Joy Division, Yan looks and acts like Ian Curtis, and Hamilton’s bass style is definitely redolent of Peter Hook.
Opener The Spirit of St Louis is a goth-punk peian to Iggy Pop and Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic; its guitar swirls and darkness seem influenced by Echo and the Bunnymen, although at times it is difficult to determine whether BSP are completely original or highly derivative.
Their first single for Rough Trade, Remember Me, is a plaintive bass-driven catchier number, melodramatic but earnest. Hamilton sings A Lovely Day Tomorrow – apparently about Moravia – with accompaniment from the tour manager (standing in for new live addition Eamon), whose tinny keyboard riffs are in stark contrast to the guitars. Set closer Lately is an epic feedback-based jam rock-out, towards the end of which Yan ventures into the crowd, Hamilton does headstands before wailing from atop his brother’s shoulders, and Noble dismantles the drum kit and takes it into the crowd.
It seems that BSP have found their niche, and will develop within it in their own iconoclastic and eccentric style. They even sang a song about beetroot; they truly are a big hope for the future.
Photo: © Richard Whitelock