The Decline Of British Sea Power, the band's debut album way back in 2003, was thankfully not a prophecy about the likelihood of British Sea Power having a successful career post release. Ten years and four more albums have passed since we were treated to 'Fear Of Drowning' and 'Apologies To Insect Life' et al and the band show no signs of wilting away. What made the band such an individual and intriguing prospect back then is still largely what characterises their sound now. They are very British, slightly odd, idiosyncratic, individual and eclectic. They have a unique sound that is brilliantly balanced with lyrical dexterity and diversity and they play a cracking live set. A decade has not diminished their ability to deliver.
Machineries Of Joy, BSP's sixth and latest album has the advantage of a degree of familiarity about it. Because we've come to know what to expect from BSP, the subject matter or lyrical content is no longer as peculiar as it might have seemed initially. We are used to the arrangements and the vocals and we have become tuned into a band that have their own distinctive sound. This is not to belittle the new album as more of the same, it is to applaud a band who have successfully ploughed their own unique furrow and who are without equal or imitation in what they do.
The ten song set is beautifully introduced and presented by the initial delicacy of the title track 'Machineries Of Joy'. The track builds with each set of notes as Yan softly sings with the repeated chorus establishing an instant earworm as rampant guitar riffs flit in and out. Ketamine induced hallucinations provide the topic for the altogether more animated 'K-Hole'. BSP do the equivalent of Blur's 'Song 2' with a raucous bundle of electrified and energised fuzz and frenzy with only the odd respite to draw breath. 'Hail Holy Queen' makes great use of strings and dreamy harmonies to embellish and adorn a more sombre song before 'Loving Animals' takes the band back a generation to an Indie heyday populated by the sounds of Joy Division and Magazine. 'What You Need The Most' pulls the band back to base with a stunning song of stripped back beauty. The tender vocal and 'lullaby' score compliment each other wonderfully.
The second half of Machineries Of Joy is no less polished but not quite as strong. Although the whole album is well framed, well arranged and produced and has a cohesion and balance, it does at times, as with some of their other past material, over complicate itself with an intellectual rather than emotive or impassioned outcome. That said 'Spring Has Sprung' and 'A Light Above Ascending' work as well-crafted and executed songs with the band combining effortlessly together. Finally, 'When A Warm Wind Blows Through The Grass' makes for a great close out track. The looping soundtrack is mildly sinister but acts as a fitting back drop to the hushed vocal.
Machineries Of Joy is a good album from British Sea Power, probably their most accessible yet. It has a calmness and serenity running through it that make it an easier listen than some of their previous albums. It does slightly suffer from its pretensions but I think you have to forgive them for that - BSP wouldn't be BSP without them, and the standout title track more than compensates for any deficiencies.
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