Here’s a helpful hint: don’t even try to figure out British Sea Power. Just enjoy the enigma.
Carrying on their tradition of creativity and unpredictability, the Brighton-based indie-rockers’ sixth studio album Machineries of Joy provides a listening experience that is nothing if not intriguing. Swinging between manic punk-infused rock and airy ballads—punctuated, of course, by unexpected lyrics like “You were my Pyrex baby / Made entirely of glass / You were a joy most beautiful / When you were getting smashed” sung against some of the most beautiful music on the album (“What You Need the Most”)—the fact is, you never really know what’s coming next from this band, and that’s just how they like it.
There’s scarcely a musical misstep on the track list here, but high points of the record include the bookends: the airy title track and the Celtic-tinged closer “When a Warm Wind Blows Through the Grass”, both epic and anthemic in their own way. Fans of the manic side of British Sea Power will enjoy “K Hole” and “Monsters of Sunderland”, while (as I mentioned before) “What You Need the Most” provides some of the most beautiful balladry on the record—even if the lyrics are a little left of center.
Of course, there’s one caveat when you build a band persona on esotericism and unpredictability, and that’s that unpredictability itself becomes…well…predictable. Don’t get me wrong, Machineries of Joy bristles with creativity and ear candy for those who prefer a non-mainstream musical approach. But then again, so does just about any other album British Sea Power have ever done. And the longer they go, the harder it is for them to surprise us. Eclecticism simply becomes the status quo.
That being said, British Sea Power has yielded another fan-pleaser. Machineries of Joy is a pleasant listening experience all its own, and will be a welcome addition to the collection of any indie rock fan. It’s a bit difficult, though, to track the band’s momentum as a band with this album, to know whether they’ve peaked or not, since this is a band who never seem to walk a straight line. I suppose the only way they could throw us a real curve ball is to go completely conventional and mainstream—and none of us wants that.