British Sea Power's new record Machineries of Joy is out this week, and it's everything you'd hope for from one of the most underappreciated and upbeat indie rock acts of the last few years. Marking ten years since their debut The Decline of British Sea Power, Machineries of Joy beguiles the listener into the immediate desire to be in the countryside, in the sun, in a field. Possibly with a picnic, definitely in some long grass, far away from a road. Just have a listen to the title track, which is also the first single to be taken from the album.
Delightful, no? British Sea Power's whole career has been a salute to the natural over the man-made, a series of anthems in tribute to the wonders around us. Their early years were spent touring on stages covered in detached tree branches and taxidermy birds, wearing WWI outfits and marching through audiences banging bass drums.
Entire music careers have burned brightly, spluttered and died in the time British Sea Power have been on the scene, and yet despite the unending critical acclaim they remain something of a cult act, even in the UK. While they can happily sell out most venues and will play on the undercards of major festivals, they've never had a hit single. They promote more of a body of work than a band repeatedly pushing one hit. Whether this is down to the across-the-board strength of Decline and their subsequent building upon it or a lack of radio-friendly immediateness, I can't say.
Many reviewers, Pitchfork foremost among them, label British Sea Power's expansive anthems as a brazen attempt at breaking into the stadium rock market. I feel that instead their songs have the sweep of the majestic natural phenomena that form most of the subject matter of British Sea Power songs. The reverb on the guitars is only the size of the thing they're writing about. Admittedly, most stadium rock bands are writing about similarly big topics, but it's just usually the ego of the lead singer.
The rest of the new album is a mix of similarly beautiful tracks with the odd stomper thrown in, as per usual. While there's nothing with quite the expansiveness or experimentation of previous efforts like the instrumental salute to a seabird of "The Great Skua" or the track that should have been the epic rock anthem of the early 2000s, "Lately," it's still all so extraordinarily pleasing, eccentric, and relaxing that you can't help crack a smile. They've been an astonishingly consistent band over the last decade - long may they continue to fly under the radar and soundtrack outdoor summer days.