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Valhalla Dancehall
British Sea Power Valhalla Dancehall
Released 7 January 2011

Graham Sutton,
British Sea Power
Label Rough Trade
Length 60:31
Genre Alternative, rock
Website www.britishseapower.co.uk

Isn’t it great when an album is perfectly summed up by its title? Okay, The Best of, eh, Jethro Tull -for argument’s sake- pretty much does what it says on the tin, but here, on the fourth full length effort from British Sea Power, the much travelled six piece nail their colours to the mast from the kick off, and the result is a career highlight, and a fine album to banish the New Year blues. Valhalla Dancehall is the musical equivalent of an angry disco: dancing while being punched in the face.

The opener 'Who’s in Control' is a corker, helped by the wonderfully liberal use of the word fuck throughout. It won’t be bothering daytime radio anytime soon, but it does contain a fabulously angsty chorus, which is emblematic of the album as a whole; for an unashamedly uncommercial band, they have an uncanny knack for a catchy hook. It is around track four that Valhalla Dancehall really ignites, with the wonderful 'Stunde Null', referring to the capitulation of the Third Reich in 1945, all in a two minute thirty eight second adrenaline rush. Nice. 'Mongk II' takes the album skyward with its soaring guitars before the listener gets a chance to pause for breath around the mid-point with 'Luna', a ballad of such fragile beauty, a kind of post-apocalyptic waltz absolutely brimming with snarling disaffection. Lead single 'Living Is So Easy' heads straight for the money shot with its tongue in cheek sing along chorus and  gentle  harmonies-  an obvious choice of single, but it’s a measure of the strength of the album that there are several songs which match it for sheer pop sensibility.

BSP are clearly experts at the epic indie chorus, but it’s their quieter side which really wins out, and pushes this album from a solid piece of work into must have category. 'Once More Now' is that rare thing: an eleven minute prog-indie epic that doesn’t leave you grasping for the skip button. A pastoral ambient soundscape leads into a driving, My Bloody Valentine-esque wash of breathy vocals and insistent drums. It is a fantastic coda to the album and arguably the best track on the album, high praise considering the competition.

The curious thing about is that it’s a pop record, but by sheer accident. It ebbs and flows quite brilliantly, it’s danceable yet reflective, darkly humorous while aloof and melancholy, it nods to Never Mind the Bollocks... and Kid A, at the same time. In short, it’s a superb piece of work: immediate and accessible, but rich enough to keep drawing you back for more. It may not be enough to transform British Sea Power from critically acclaimed indie outsiders to mainstream arena fillers, but it certainly deserves to.

- Ken O'Meara