ALBUM: British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall

Valhalla DancehallHats off to any band who call their own debut album The Decline of British Sea Power – although you’d imagine they were really referring to the waterborne capability of our nation, rather than their own musical fortunes.

Which brings us to 2011.  Somehow strange to realise that Valhalla Dancehall is the band’s fifth long player; they seem somehow fresh in the frontal lobe of indie consciousness. Five albums in, Valhalla Dancehall touches on the same key elements of power driving guitars and indie sensibilities, a rough and ready sound with notes of New Order, Arcade Fire, The National, Smashing Pumpkins, Editors, Kasabian and the Pixies. That’s certainly the end of things where Valhalla Dancehall resides.  No bad place to be.

The roughness is in the production, which renders the tracks quite raw and almost demo-esque; although they were recorded in studios in the band’s hometown of Brighton and also the Isle ofSkye – a rural retreat that perhaps adds to the organic, DIY-ethic.  It’s powerful, heady stuff: elbows out, let’s ‘ave it – and by ‘Mongk II’ Valhalla Danchehall has got you by the throat, holding you aggressively up against a wall.  Drums pound, guitars shimmer and echo, piano notes sound maudlin, lonely.  Despite the Brighton tag the band has a very northern sound and on closer inspection…it is: two brothers and their mate from Kendal, a guitarist from Bury.  But let’s not get parochial – if they sound like The National they could almost come from across the pond – but it does warm the cockles to know they’re from our manor. All of which makes their Manchester gigs more appealing – a live show and signing at HMV on Monday (Jan10th) and a show at The Ritz on February 15th.

There’s a lot on show across the 13 tracks – from the gentler “Baby” to the bouncier ‘Observe The Skies’; from the loose atmosphere of ‘Cleaning Out The Rooms’ to the punch-drunk energy of ‘Thin Black Sail’, and gorgeous coda that brings ‘Once More Now’ to an emotive close.  Lyrically it’s also interesting, with some decent swearing thrown in and overall Valhalla Dancehall provides decent, solid, indie fare which, while referencing those other bands, never… hmmm…gets quite as good.  But rumours of the demise of Britain’s sea power have evidently been greatly exaggerated…

Release 10/01/2011 (Rough Trade)

Post By Simon A. Morrison (29 Posts)

Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients. He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show. Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies. On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car. OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…

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