British Sea Power
Wild BeastsEdit this event
You don’t come to places like this unless you’re interested in magic. Perched atop desolate moors a gnat’s tup away from the wind-battered A66 linking the nation’s northernmost reaches, the Tan Hill Inn is England’s highest pub. In the winter months, drunken regulars are escorted home in a Haglund snowmobile while a brood of long-suffering hens cower on the tavern’s window ledges for warmth.
Strange, then, that British Sea Power seem to be rushing away from the peculiar magic that defined their first incarnation towards a more blandly anthemic sound. Imminent third LP Do You Like Rock Music, although in many respects a fine record, substitutes staid post-rock atmospherics for the punkish zeal of their first incarnation, a trade-off which might please some, but will seem a dissipation of their powers to many long-standing aficionados of the band.
Tonight’s travelling hardcore simply doesn’t care; they’ve travelled through the freezing drizzle to reach this Old Peculiar-powered outpost of humanity and they’ll be damned if they’re not going to have a brilliant time. Crowd surfers risk summary execution passing under the venue’s low timbers, and songs both old and new are greeted as close friends.
And rightly so, since the newbies actually provide some fine company for the old dead certs: the relentless upsurge of ‘No Lucifer’, the Cribs-ish riffola writ large of ‘Lights Out For Darker Skies’ and the choral splendor of ‘Waving Flags’ with its inevitable echoes of Arcade Fire.
But it’s the old fires that burn the brightest; ‘Apologies To Insect Life’’s brittle Russian two-step retaining its convulsive power and ‘Carrion’’s familiar hooks careening like meteors sent spinning from their orbits, literally sending two foolhardy souls into the rafters, where they sit lord-like for the remainder of the gig, in spite of the bar staff’s best attempts to fish them down.
Deep into the encore and the enthusiasm proves infectious, with Yan almost swept out of the venue entirely, buoyed under the reverent palms of the panting faithful. He’s brought back to earth with the care of pallbearers lowering a casket into the grave, before returning to the scene of his victory to take a final, sweat-sodden bow.
Just two short hours before this booze-soaked finale we’d witnessed an equally under-the-influence Wild Beasts upstage their comrades in quirky literacy, emerging before our eyes as fully the best new band in Britain.
New single ‘Assembly’ finds frontman Hayden Thorpe’s HB pencil sharpened to a fine point, like a magic realist Ken Loach packed off to boarding school: “My top’s off - I’m a goose pimpled god! / I’ll quiver the jellies of every heavy and every bully that I might cross”. Not that you can hear much through his Jekyll-and-Hyde falsetto, but it’s hard not to think about Morrissey when listening to their words in flight: same obsessive ear for alliteration and wordplay, shared fondness for archaic slang.
Another new song, ‘The Devil’s Crayon’, finds guitarist Benny copping licks off The Edge and twisting them into something altogether more interesting and insular, while ‘Through Dark Nights’ sounds like ‘Runaway Sue’ heard through a Wurlitzer Tannoy.
Bassist Tom swigs rakishly from a bottle of red wine and lets his haunting tenor slide into a frazzled holler during a delirious rendition of ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’, Benny throwing down quizzical chord shapes to send the band’s sideways-melancholic sound into orbit.
Reeling from log fire fumes and half-remembered school hymns, the cold of creative dearth baying at the doors outside, Wild Beasts have mastered the elements here tonight, and with this in mind, there’s no telling what the morning may bring.
Photo:* Ashley Pickering*
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