For a melodramatic, high-concept, quasi-camp, neo-post-punk band, British Sea Power has managed to develop its tamer, subtler side over the years without however abandoning its crunchier, more angular output. It’s as if Roxy Music recorded “More Than This” on the same album as “Virginia Plain.”
“Living Is So Easy” is a splendid example of the band’s softer aspect—a confident glider, its muted electro effects and partially mechanized percussion quickly fading into ornamentation thanks to the seductive velvet of the melody, as delivered by Bowiesque lead singer Yan Scott Wilkinson (no longer just Yan, as previously). Muted volume does not require muted sentiment, however; Wilkinson may croon voluptuously about the party everyone is going to, but he is taking down the partiers along the way, skewering the hollow victory of shallow consumerism via the repeated image of everyone going to this unnamed party—which is really just life in our celebrity-addled world—and how “easy” everything is. By the end I think we understand that maybe “easy” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; maybe “easy” isn’t the sole value to which we should be aspiring.
Once a quartet, BSP today features six members, including, now, a woman (Abi Fry, who plays viola and sings harmonies). The band has eased up on some of its posturey quirkiness (they’re not in WWI military uniforms in their press photos anymore, and they’ve ditched their one-name names), but the musical power and poise remain, 10 years on. “Living Is So Easy” is a song from the band’s forthcoming album, Valhalla Dancehall, arriving next month on Rough Trade Records. MP3 via Rough Trade. The album is BSP’s fifth full-length release; the band has been featured previously on Fingertips in 2003 and 2005.