After the huge disappointment that was 'Do You Like Rock Music?' and the eyebrow-raising 'Man Of Aran' soundtrack that followed, initial expectations for BSP's 'Valhalla Dancehall' were less than high. Thankfully then, the Brighton band's fifth album seems to have recaptured some, though not all, of the vigour of their early records.
Easing back slightly from the bigger stadium sound that characterised '...Rock Music', British Sea Power still boast the same brand of hazy, tuneful indie rock. Their noisy, feedback-friendly days may be well and truly behind them, but there's hints of that former punch to be observed here. Gritty guitars meet sharp ones in 'Stunde Null' alongside fast-paced bass and a rhythmic, repetitive chorus, while 'Mongk II' sports a solid, foot-tapping beat, fuzzy distortion and screeching, bending guitars aplenty.
The other end of the spectrum is not far off either, as Yan's breathy vocals seem oddly comforting among the sweet piano and feminine backing vocals of 'Georgie Ray'. The range is vast here, in more ways than one. The fun, upbeat tone of 'Observe The Skies' is a far cry from the seven minute, atmospheric slow burner 'Cleaning Out The Rooms', which follows it with exotic strings and distant-sounding voices. The even longer 'Once More Now' is surprisingly successful at creating mood-capturing climbs and swoops within its post-rock setting, though at eleven minutes the length is pushing it.
And yet, despite a certain amount of likeability, so many of these tunes are still somewhat underwhelming. 'Valhalla Dancehall' is certainly a step back in the right direction for BSP, but let's hope they take a bigger step next time.