Sea Power – Everything Was Forever (Golden Chariot Records)
The artists formerly known as British Sea Power broke a 5 year silence earlier last year, with a truncation of their moniker. Choosing to remove the ‘British’ from the name, on the grounds that they “didn’t want to be associated with the isolationist, antagonistic nationalism on the rise in the world” and an admission that when they did choose the name two decades ago it felt like a kitschy anachronism, far removed from the associations that the last decade of political upheaval and shift in the Overton Window could have predicted. This gesture upset all of the right people (Darren Grimes, Eamonn Holmes) as virtue signalling and decidedly unpatriotic. There is a considerable irony to this, given that (British) Sea Power have written about Great Britain as evocatively, romantically and poetically as any other rock group in the last few decades.
What feels central to both the change in name, and the music on Everything Was Forever is a complete cull of anything kitsch, and puts paid to the idea that Sea Power have any kind of novelty element to them. Their stage shows are considerably less chaotic, the props have been retired, and what’s left is what they have always been tremendous at; elegiac music where the personal, abstract and political intertwine seamlessly.
Recording with Graham Sutton again, responsible for what was arguably the band’s commercial apex in the form of Do You Like Rock Music?, the sonic palette of Sea Power has been distilled to the absolute premium. Their last studio album, Let The Dancers Inherit The Party was something of a mis-step in employing more polished, pop production that didn’t especially play to the group’s strengths. The sonic richness here is reminiscent of the band’s soundtrack work: Phil Sumner and Abi Fry on cornet and violin are utilised tremendously here.
What is a little lacking, sadly, is the pedigree of songwriting that makes much of the band’s best work absolutely timeless. The record is somewhat more ponderous than previous efforts. A lot has been spoken of the loss of the Wilkinson brothers’ parents informing the record, and this is apparent and affecting on a song like ‘Lakeland Echo’ for example, a gorgeously nostalgic song named after the newspaper the brothers delivered in their formative years. ‘Two Fingers’ is a bittersweet paean to celebrating those no longer with us, and feels like a direct reference to the language of older generations: an anachronism of a rock song. It’s the songs that are evocative of youth and nostalgia that are the strongest and most purposeful sounding. On the other side of the coin ‘Doppleganger’ is something that you’d assume the band could write in their sleep these days, and like a lot of the rockier songs on the record, lacks the bloodthirsty energy of and freewheeling chaos of songs on The Decline… or Do You Like Rock Music?
‘Transmitter’ provides a rush at the time, but is ultimately rather forgettable, lacking the emotional or poetic weight of most of the band’s material.
That isn’t to say that Everything Was Forever is a bad record, far from it, but the real gold here is found in subtlety and nuance, which is something that the band could have leant into more. If this is an exercise in Sea Power rediscovering their capacity to be spine-tingling, its an effective, if patchy, one.
Everything Was Forever is released on 18th February through Golden Chariot Records.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.