British Sea Power

Shocker: English musicians who dress up like World War I "Tommies," populate their stages with stuffed birds and bears, and write eccentric postpunk romantica about Dostoyevsky and colonic irrigation aren't likely to win much more than a tiny cult following in America, or in the U.K. for that matter. And so Open Season, the second album from British Sea Power, finds the Brighton quintet toning down the rumbly weirdness in a bid for wider appeal, and its spruced-up melodies are mostly charmers. Singular-monikered singer Yan's scratchy croon finds a midpoint between Bowie and Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, an outfit BSP strongly approximates on opener "It Ended on an Oily Stage," at least until the tune slowly outros with the best spiraling guitar work Echo and the Bunnymen never recorded. Spring-heeled pop pearls "How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?" and "Victorian Ice," meanwhile, are two of the finest singles the Chills never recorded. Still, BSP manages to avoid the trendiest of paths--the swelling ballad "North Hanging Rock" taps into early Slowdive rather than late Coldplay--and songs like "Oh Larsen B" (a jangly ode to a collapsed Antarctic ice shelf) suggest the group's oddball nature isn't so easily washed away.