- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

British Sea Power, an indie-rock quintet from England’s northwest coast, may have named its premiere album “The Decline of British Sea Power,” but at the Black Cat on Monday night, the band brought peak empire muscle — the kind that could still burn down the White House.

The surname-shunning boys of BSP — frontman Yan, lead-guitarist Noble, bassist Hamilton, drummer Wood and keyboardist Eamon — played for an hour to a smallish audience of nonplussed yet captivated Yanks.

Before the band appeared, a roadie spent several minutes carefully festooning the set with vegetation, plus a spooky-looking stuffed owl.

BSP followed, with Yan looking deadly serious, like he was walking into the Treaty of Ghent. Yet during the Joy Division-y stomp of “Apologies to Insect Life,” Eamon strapped on a snare drum and began hopping around as though he’d joined a mosh-pit drum line.

On post-punk left-fielders such as “Carrion” and “Favours in the Beetroot Fields,” it was useless trying to figure out what was bugging Yan, who sings in an earnest rasp not unlike that of Collective Soul’s Ed Roland. I’m guessing he’s a European history buff with a taste for mythological literature.

“Replacing Hercules with the heroic sounds of Formby/Remove the tunics touch, stood aside from the putsch,” he sang on “Lately.”

BSP hopes you have your library card handy.

“Spirit of St. Louis” suggested the band isn’t completely humorless, merging Charles Lindbergh’s famous flying machine with the Kingsmen’s garage classic “Louie Louie.”

Lyrical curios aside, British Sea Power merited a trip across the Atlantic based on its reputation as an exciting live act. Monday’s performance didn’t disappoint in that regard.

BSP is tight. Wood is a pneumatic powerhouse; the guitars are jagged and punky, but Yan’s melodies are easily chewable, if not quite up to the standards of the brothers Gallagher or Brit-songwriter-of-the-moment Chris Martin.

The only thing that will stop this band from attaining broad popularity here is its obscurantism.

Put simply, British Sea Power might just be too weird.

But maybe we could all use a little weirdness in our rock lives. Maybe we could use a few head-tilters, like this line from BSP’s “The Lonely”: “Just like Liberace/I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffs.”

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