During the post-punk revival of the early ‘00s, when all their peers were looking back to 1979, British Sea Power charted a course for 60 years earlier. Forget calling your band Franz Ferdinand—the BSP lads dressed like soldiers from the war that the Archduke’s death started, and they made music to match. At once caustic and epic, the group’s stellar 2003 debut, The Decline of British Sea Power, seemed to obliquely romanticize Old Europe while hinting at the unspeakable carnage its leaders would instigate.
Fourteen years later, British Sea Power find themselves living through an actual watershed moment in European history. Let the Dancers Inherit the Party, the band’s sixth studio album and first post-Brexit offering, arrives with none of the tangly barbed-wire abrasiveness of Decline. In keeping with the group’s trajectory—bigger, brighter, increasingly anthemic—these new songs charge into an uncertain future, cannons blazing. The album rocks harder than the one that BSP called Do You Like Rock Music?—and that’s despite the fact the lineup now officially includes a keyboardist and a viola player.
The assault on cynicism begins right away. “You said the world was losing all its luster,” sings Jan Wilkinson to start opener “Bad Bohemian.” With his yearning whisper of a voice, he still sounds like the ghost of a World War I soldier. Only now, he’s haunting the consciousness of 21st century artsy kids freaked by Trump, Brexit and rise of the right across Europe. The glistening guitars and keyboards rocket into the clouds, evoking the best of Big Country and Echo and the Bunnymen, and for the duration of the record, they rarely come back down.
Jan actually spells out “m-o-o-n / a-n-d / s-t-a-r-s” on “International Space Station,” a fist-pumping extended metaphor for cooperation. Fluttering synths give “Ivy Lee”—an anti-propaganda song named for the guy who invented public relations—some added sparkle. Lee is worth Googling, just like Saint Jerome, the title hero of another rafter-reaching standout. It’s almost better not to find out that “Sechs freunde!”—exclaimed in the chorus of the almost danceable “Keep Trying”—is German “six friends,” not “sex fiends,” though Jan wants you to hear both.
In the four years since their last proper album, BSP have released two film soundtracks and one LP of older songs done up with brass accompaniment. They have an exploratory zeal that manifests itself a couple times here, like the spare, droning closer “Alone Piano,” wherein Jan’s brother Neil reminisces about a childhood instrument. More weirdness would’ve given the album some welcome variety, though likely at the expense of potency. Given the facts on the ground, that’s a tradeoff our heroes just weren’t willing to make.