British Anthem Power

May 13th, 2010 in Music

We have all succumbed to the power of the British rock anthem.  Come on–admit it.

For some it started with the Beatles’ Hey Jude, for others the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, and for others still it was The Who’s My Generation. Or perhaps you came along later and for you it was Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, John Lennon’s Instant Karma, Bowie’s Heroes, or Queen’s Under Pressure.  Still later it could have been the Clash’s London Calling, the Smiths’ There is A Light That Never Goes Out, Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, the Stone Roses’ I Am the Resurrection and (we sensed a theme with the Stoned ones) I Wanna Be Adored, Oasis’s Wonderwall, Live Forever, and Don’t Look Back in Anger, or The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony. Still more recently it’s been Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees, Paranoid Android, Karma Police, High and Dry, and (yes even) Creep, Blur’s Song 2, Elbow’s One Day Like This, and Coldplay’s ubiquitousYellow and Vida la Vida (does this band do anything but attempt anthems?).

We have all condescended to the British anthem, attached our souls thereto and souled the same down that ravashing musical river.  But still we have overlooked some.

And a band that has delivered some beauties you may not have heard is British Sea Power.

We have had a litmus test over the years:  if a song forces us to replay it more than five times before listening to another track, then it is likely a classic (in our own minds, mind you) that passes notorious muster (last year we replayed Bell X1’s worthy How Your Heart is Wired for almost an entire drive between San Luis Obispo and Berkeley).

And on no less than five to six occasions in recent memory, I have found myself hitting the repeat button on British Sea Power’s mutiny on the bountiful songs, Carrion and Lately, from their first record, “The Decline of British Sea Power.”

In Carrion, the band seems to lament the descent of Britain and British identity in the face of its long, and sometimes dark, history.  Regardless, a repeated line and the chorus kill:

“I felt the lapping of an ebbing tide

Oh the heavy water how it enfolds
The salt, the spray, the gorgeous undertow
Always, always, always the sea
Brilliantine mortality”

But for those with true staying power (and yes this song has been set to repeat for weeks at a time), the main course for us is the song Lately (all 14 minutes of it–and it still feels too short at times).  In this great song, British Sea Power tell the story from a British World War II veteran’s perspective, perhaps to his wife or girlfriend, and with serious aplomb (emphasis added):

Lately, you seem like another language
Are you in trouble,
Are you in trouble again

And you know how they say,
The past, it is a foreign country
How can we go there,
How can we go where we once went?

Have I been standing here for so long,
Nature’s found a way of telling you that it was going wrong?

So which way, do I go to get out of here?
Avoiding landmines,
And all the other stuff around here

Replacing Hercules, with the heroic sounds of Formby
Remove the tunics touch, stood aside from the putsch,
Stood aside from history

Have I been standing here for so long,
Nature’s found a way of telling you that it was going wrong?

Across the Kattegat, maybe out to Java,
Oh, did you wonder if these days will stay true?

All through the years, all through the dead scenes,
Across the memories, across the memories, melodies, melodies

Oh, have I been standing here for so long,
Nature’s found a way of telling you that it was going wrong?

Do you like my megalithic rock?
Do you like my prehistoric rock?
Do you like my teutonic rock?
Do you like my priapic rock?
Do you like my neolithic rock?
Do you like my sterile rock?
Do you like my megalithic rock?”

Take great pains to speak the same language with those you love, no matter where you find yourself.  We have fallen short at times.

British Sea Power–Carrion

[audio:|titles=08 Carrion]

British Sea Power–Lately

[audio:|titles=10 Lately 1]

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