British Sea Power return to glory with Let the Dancers Inherit the Party

Let the Dancers Inherit the PartySay what you like about British Sea Power, you can’t fault their industry. Since their last studio album, 2013’s lukewarm Machineries of Joy, the band have kept busy with various suitably charming projects: soundtracking a 2014 documentary film about the globalisation of Bhutan; refashioning their back catalogue for perhaps the third time on Sea of Brass; touring an exhaustive box set edition of their near-perfect debut. None of this is surprising for a band who have lived in thrall to antiquity, though such revisions inevitably invite the listener to compare the glory days to the modern era, a period that might uncharitably be called Austerity British Sea Power. Now back with a decadently-titled new record, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party, it may be time to loosen our belts a little.

In a wise editorial move, this is the first album since 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music? that foregoes the tradition of throwing in a token punk-rock blowout or two. Recent efforts, from “Think Black Sail” to “K Hole”, have rarely come close to capturing the freewheeling spirit of the older cousins, and the regular appearance of early b-side “The Spirit of St. Louis” at live shows negates their requirement altogether. Instead, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party leads with their main selling point: anthemic, stargazing indie rock.

The most neatly packaged of these entries is lead single “Bad Bohemian”, underpinned by a high-end Hamilton bassline that gives the whole thing a distinctly New Order taste. When the band eventually release a Best Of compendium, it will sit politely alongside previous iterations “Please Stand Up” and “Waving Flags”, though lacking the quiet urgency of the former or political thrust of the latter. Likewise, “International Space Station” does its job to a commendable standard, Yan repeating the word "celestial" over suitably atmospheric instrumentation.

These are the highlights of the faster paced numbers and, stacked at the beginning of the album, they could easily precipitate a saturation point. Instead, British Sea Power do something quite wonderful: they slow down. “Electrical Kittens” is the first track to lower the tempo, but it’s the finishing hattrick that merits a standing ovation here. “Want to Be Free” sounds nailed-on to be the album’s obligatory Hamilton-led slow burner, returning to the space theme with lines about nebulae and smoking under the stars until there’s nothing left but Abi Fry’s plaintive viola. But “Don’t Let the Sun Get in the Way” is even better, all sighed backing vocals and dusky melancholia, before Hamilton leads out another wounded torch song on “Alone Piano”, closing the album on a delicate high.

British Sea Power’s recent form gave every impression of a band retiring into graceful middle age, and that’s still not wide of the mark. The difference now is something that sounds like acceptance, eschewing the frantic diversity of a Valhalla Dancehall and focusing on what they do best - as a result, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party might just be their finest album in a decade. “Say a little prayer for halcyon days,” they ask of us halfway through the album, and we surely will; forever and ever, the Power and the glory, amen.

Release: 31st March 2017, Caroline International / Golden Chariot


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