If ever a career could be summed up as a case of diminishing returns then that dubious accolade would fall to British Sea Power. After their classic debut, the retroactively aptly titled The Decline Of…, the band’s output has mostly failed to match their ambition, resulting in a group whose live shows are still lauded but one whose studio output, barring their soundtrack to Man Of Aran, is listened to two or three times per album and disregarded quickly. Their new release, Let The Dancers Inherit The Party does nothing to buck this trend.
This is yet another album of mid-paced indie rock with no rough edges and little life to it. BSP’s wry humour sometimes shines through, most notably in the chorus of ‘Keep On Trying (Sechs Freunde)’ but that’s one of few examples of any life on the album. Too often is the listener reduced to thinking that they’ve heard it each song before and the album drags hugely.
There aren’t many standout tracks on this album, which is down to a number of factors. The production is uniformly polished to the point of banality over the course of the record. The second factor is that the band seem unable to write a hook of any sort. Multiple tracks slide by at similar tempos without any standout feature that grabs the listener. The lyrics are the usual BSP thesaurus raiding verses, wordy paeans to absolutely nothing while the instrumentation remains in the U2-aping vein they mined on ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’, all faux soaring guitars, synth pads and martial drums.
British Sea Power are now a band out of time. They’re still ploughing the same furrow that they established back in 2003 and have made very few attempts to vary their sound or grow as a band. This could be for any number of reasons. Frugality might be one, as the band crowdfunded the production of this album. Money that might possibly be used on a new producer with fresh ears must now be used for recording costs. It may be that they have recognised their cult core fanbase and are now pandering to them and them alone.
No matter what the reasons are it’s a shame as The Decline Of… was a genuinely exciting debut. It might be telling that the band have already reissued the (very easy to find) album only twelve years after its release, most likely in a fundraising effort. That exercise reveals a band preserved in amber and they would do well to attempt to break the mould on their next release. Let The Dancers Inherit The Party, unfortunately, does not resemble an effort that is anything close to doing that.