Only the lads of British Sea Power would collectively and simultaneously correct one in the middle of an interview on the right way to pronounce ornithology, before adding that they were once featured in the Royal Society of Protection of Birds magazine. Not that this should be surprising for longtime fans of the band, since during BSP’s first tours they would dress up the stage with local flora and a few stuffed owls, while the song “True Adventures” on their sophomore LP ended with the crying of gulls. On their third and latest album, Do You Like Rock Music?, the Anglo four-piece incorporates the coos of pigeons into one track, “Lights Out For Darker Skies,” while name checking the Great Skua (a large, ill-tempered seabird) in the title of another.

It has been three years since the band’s second album, Open Season, and during the intervening time, founding member Eamon left to concentrate full-time on his other venture, the Brakes, while the remaining four – vocalist/guitarist Yan, guitarist Noble, bassist/vocalist Hamilton and drummer Wood – traveled to odd corners of the world to record what would become the Krankenhaus? (which means ‘hospital’ in German) EP and Do You Like Rock Music? They started out in –20 degree weather in Montreal, then moved on to the Krivoklatsko Biosphere Reserve in the Czech Republic (“You could see wild boars and stags when you took a walk,” Noble tells us) before ending up at Fort Tregantle, a Cornish stronghold on the edge of a cliff. The latter was owned by the Ministry of Defense, who built it in the 19th century to keep out the French. “It was absolutely enormous,” Yan explains with a shake of his head. “There were about 50 rooms, some of which could hold 250 people. And no-one there but us four. It was like The Shining. Then halfway through the recording, the army started doing military exercises. So you’d have a helicopter landing and guys in green running by the window as you were making music.”

There’s a lot of sense of place and atmosphere on the record,” adds Hamilton quietly. “We went from being by the sea in Cornwall to then finding ourselves in the middle of these massive thunderstorms in the Czech Republic. You can’t help but be affected.” From the stirring battle cry for an era past, “Waving Flags,” to the building epic “Lights Out For Darker Skies” and the stomping bullroarer of a tune “Atom,” this is an album that defies you to not rock out while singing “Oh caveat emptor/Open the atom’s core.”

The LP gleefully challenges the strict constraints of traditional rock ‘n’ roll, a tactic summed up by its questioning title. “On the one hand that was meant to be somewhat stupid,” admits Yan with a rueful chuckle. “Everyone has this impression that we’re quite smart, but I don’t know why. We’re a highbrow band to a lot of people, which is partly true, but we also like the power of the Stooges and Jerry Lee Lewis.” One thing is for sure, people may not have known what caveat emptor meant before now (Leonard Cohen defines the phrase as, “This article is not completely devoid of the con.” In other words, “Buyer beware.”), but only British Sea Power and their singular brand of truly timeless rock ‘n’ roll could bring Latin back from the dead and make the birds sing.

–Nevin Martell, Photos by Tear-n Tan

http://www.britishseapower.co.uk