British Sea Power – Open Season (2005)

OpenSeasonCoverSince “Needles In My Eyes” by The Beta Band, I’ve loved the idea, and the sound, of songs recorded outside, where noises of the elements intrude into the soundstage and set the mood. A babbling stream, rustling leaves, crickets, thunder, wind, a distant birdcall. I’m not sure what it is that I like about this uncommon phenomenon.

The centrepiece, to my mind, of Open Season, is “North Hanging Rock”, which builds from absolutely nothing into a beatific tumult, and sounds as if it was recorded in a bird hide far from civilisation. As far as I can tell, it’s about nature photography or wanting to be buried in a biodegradable cardboard coffin or being so distraught at man’s inhumanity to nature or a friend who died young or something else that I can’t identify. It’s produced by Graham Sutton, the man behind Bark Psychosis, whose work I love. It’s one of my favourite things he’s been involved in.

(A reworked, more acoustic, instrumental version of “North Hanging Rock” appears on their soundtrack to the documentary Man of Arran, under the name “Boy Vertiginous”. Just so you know.)

My second favourite song on Open Season is the streaming, tectonic groove of “Oh Larsen B”, which tells, quite literally, the story of a collapsing arctic ice shelf. “Oh Larsen B” sings Yan, “desalinate the barren sea”, which is exactly what the Larsen B ice shelf did to the Weddell Sea when it collapsed and broke up in early 2002.

It took me months after Open Season came out, back in 2005, to realise that I was listening to it all the time, taking it out on my iPod and using it to soundtrack walks along the coastal paths of South Devon. It’s the… gentlest… perhaps, of Britiah Sea Power’s albums. It certainly features the least shouting, and tunes which insinuate themselves in your consciousness rather than try and batter their way in. Tunes like “Like A Honeycomb”, which have wandering pianos and slowly flowering choruses which swell like unkempt allotment weeds, but which are far more beautiful.

I wont make any great claims for British Sea Power; they’re a good band, blustery and passionate and sincere but also a little strange, promontorial, as isolationist as they are communal. People who know better than me say they’re in the lineage of Echo & The Bunneymen or The Chameleons. I cannot confirm or deny. Open Season is by far my favourite of their records, perhaps because it swoons more then it screams, or perhaps because it has the best songs, or, perhaps, simply just because it was the one that arrived in my life when I was most ready for it. Or perhaps because it has a bear on the cover.

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