Completely extraordinary and out of this world...
Jon Thomson

11:41 11th January 2011

Three years on from the mercury-nominated ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’, British Sea Power return with ‘Valhalla Dancehall’, their “fourth album proper” (excluding 2009’s Man of Aran soundtrack).

With the release of the experimental ‘Zeus’ EP late last year many expected the band to return with an album's worth of genre and sound meddling madness, however, they actually pick up from a similar territory to where ‘DYLRM?’ left off. For ‘Valhalla Dancehall’ British Sea Power have taken the qualities developed through their career and honed on ‘DYLRM?’, and pushed them to even greater extremities – the noise is harsher, the melodies are more soothing and the subject matter is broader than ever.

Like the appearance of the group’s beloved flags on the horizon, opener ‘Who’s In Control?’ signifies a rousing return. The immediately recognisable traits are present and correct - stirring lead guitars, innovative drumming and Yan’s call-to-arms vocals deliberating the unmotivated and worryingly indecisive state of the public - “Please no, don’t say, it could go either way”, he frets, attempting to shake them into action, pleading that they “point and stand and fight”.

This galvanizing introduction paves the way for a series of wide-ranging, but consistently emotive pieces - gentle ballads captivate and pacify before breakneck post-punk numbers ambush the mood. ‘Valhalla Dancehall’ is awash with the peculiar and exciting, from the furious and electrifying ‘Thin Black Sail’, to the psychedelic buzz of Hamilton’s ‘Mongk II’ and the all in encompassing blanket of sound that is ‘Cleaning out the Rooms’.  In spite of its far-reaching scope the album still manages to remain an obvious body of work, not a ramshackle collection of songs from opposing ends of the spectrum. The layers and depth of the pieces all inter-lock seamlessly, the mellow bleeds into the frantic as the noise does into the harmonious - each track hinting at the larger picture.

Eight years on from their debut, British Sea Power continue to expand and refine their idiosyncratic world of contrast – loud/quiet, gentle/abrasive, life’s grandest deliberations/inconsequential indecision, Yan/Hamilton. At their finest moments the band manage to sound completely extraordinary and out of this world yet simultaneously reassuringly familiar.  Frontman Yan stated that the group hoped to align themselves with people “who aren’t afraid to stand out” - if there was ever any doubt that this wasn’t already true, Valhalla Dancehall surely secures it.

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