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February 14, 2008

British Sea Power, 'Do You Like Rock Music?'



Until now, British Sea Power has been better-known for its famous eccentricities - a love of bird-watching, shows with a guy in a 10-foot bear suit onstage, reported fisticuffs with bands they were collaborating with - than the band's actual music.

So when Sea Power's latest album asks the musical question "Do You Like Rock Music?" (Rough Trade), it's tempting to react the way New Yorkers react to all those Times Square hawkers who clog the sidewalks annoyingly asking, "Do you like comedy?"

This time out, though, British Sea Power genuinely wants to know, it seems. On "Do You Like Rock Music?" the band has apparently reached the early '90s in its off-kilter survey of great guitar-dominated sounds. Instead of another droning appreciation of Joy Division or Echo and the Bunnymen, the Brighton band has moved on to combining a bit of Julian Cope's cleverness with the anthemic aspirations of Arcade Fire, resulting in a happy medium that lands somewhere around '90s British exports the Catherine Wheel and the Candy Skins.

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That's not to say British Sea Power isn't still odd, with a tribute to physicist Niels Bohr that careens from ballad to bashing rocker ("Atom") and a pretty instrumental "Great Skua" named for the seabird of the same name. The glorious single "Waving Flags" - which opens with "You are astronomical fans of alcohol, so welcome in" - is the best example of the band's new directness, an uplifting anthem of inclusion that could bring Sea Power new converts one stadium at a time.

- By Glenn Gamboa/Newsday

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