British Sea Powers' mainstay position amongst the sub-elite of British indie rock is earned off whimsical lyrics and pounding anthemic guitar music. Never the most exciting band, but notable in that their albums rarely put a foot wrong, providing a remarkably consistent experience that is unlikely to ever let you down. Their first two albums The Decline Of British Sea Power and Open Season both were consistently excellent, providing us with an indistinguishably excellent barrage of indie rock. Do You like rock music? was slightly less excellent, but all within expectable limits right? Will new album Valhalla Dancehall continue this susposed decline, or begin a strong return to form?

The answer I'm afrraid lies somewhere in the middle in that Valhalla Dancehall is almost exactly as good as Do You Like Rock Music?. Oh well, lets all go home then I guess, nothing of any interest to see here you might be thinking. Not so fast, because despite the slight problems with Valhalla Dancehall, it's still an interesting and diverse album, it's style representing something of a departure for British Sea Power, it's definitely different and distinct from Do you Like Rock Music?. Departure is a strong word, but as the Zeus EP suggested would happen, British Sea Power are no longer comfortable with their somewhat formulaic form of music. Their lyrics always did look onwards and upwards, and now they've attempted to make their music do the same thing. 'Living is so easy', for example, has a drum machine! Ok, there's nothing actually experimental here, but the ethos is there, British Sea Power are moving from being a vaguely meat and potatoes Indie Rock band to a group that isn't unwilling to expand their borders and evolve their sound.

I was rather fond of the rut that British Sea Power remained stuck in, but a 4th album that sounds nearly exactly the same as it's predecessors would be a shame. Groups need to evolve and move forward and often this process is clumsy. Valhalla Dancehall has it's highlights, it's strong moments that would make the album nearing a 9/10 had it remained consistent. Unfortunately the album isn't consistent, featuring (unlike previous British Sea Power albums) definite highs and lows. 'Georgie Ray', the afore mentioned 'Living is so Easy' and 'Luna' are particular highlights, but 11 minute bore 'Once More Now' as well as a few other moments of sheer mediocrity drag the album down out of the heavens.

So, to be fully honest, Valhalla Dancehall is a good album. It's certainly a strong progression from the band, and one I've very much enjoyed my time with. There is occasionally the unfortunate feeling that it is not all that it could have been. The occasional misstep, but everybody is fallible, and I don't think British Sea Power can be dammed to musical hell for not creating the perfect album. I certainly prefer it to the obvious alternative, of a mediocre album that doesn't really go anyway, that stays stuck in the same rut we've become used to the band occupying. Because after a while one begins to tire of a very familiar sound. Valhalla Dancehall is definitely a step in the right direction, and one the band can be proud of.

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