BRITISH SEA POWER, BY MISS AMP
His hair is orange, flaming like when Scorpion in Mortal
Kombat Deadly Alliance wears the special fiery skull head. His skin is
chalk-white as Dover cliffs. He is gibbering with post-gig passion. He
touched Hamilton's bare arse, he says.
Hamilton, (Neil, British Sea Power's bassist) was crowdsurfing, eyes glazed,
coated in sweat because he'd kept his check scarf and ear-flap hat on
throughout the whole gig. As Hamilton passed above the red-headed boy's
head, the boy (beautiful, sixteen if he's a day, limbs like pale twigs)
tells us how he reached out the flat of his hand and crashed it down on
the rock star skin exposed by the scrabbling of the frenzied crowd. He
stares at the hand, smiling, as though gazing into the flesh that was
briefly held cupped in his palm.
STRONG-BACKED PUBLIC SCHOOLBOYS
That British Sea Power arouse such lust and devotion in
England's pale-skinned sons is no surprise. Sure, Crazy Titch and Lady
Sov and Kano et al are conveying the sound of the sink estates, the delights
of faredodging and acts of random meta-violence (happy slapping, anyone?)
- but there are swathes of strong-backed public schoolboys, in London
and outside it, for whom that will never be a reality. It is for these
boys – Albion's finest, their slender necks draped in maroon paisley
scarves, their voices warm with the sound of money – that the good
Lord created British Sea Power.
MALE DRAG KINGS
British Sea Power's new album, Open Season, may swap
the Joy Division influence for that of Echo and the Bunnymen, but the
visual and cultural aesthetic remain the same. Their promotional literature
is written in stilted, mock-formal language; their songs centre round
subjects like the 1942 assassination of the Czech Reich Protectorate Reinhard
Heydrich; they play gigs in village halls, prefacing them with poetry
(a recent gig featured a poem by Isaac Rosenberg, a Great War poet who
was too short for regular regiments and was sent to a 'Bantam' battalion
for men under 5"3'); they extol the glories of Cumbrian hill-walking;
they collaborate with museums of natural and maritime history...
In short, British Sea Power are fusty, eccentric old
men trapped in the bodies of 20something boys.
They are vandal-philosopher-aesthetes draped in earth tones and swaddled
in scarves. They are male drag kings, performing a nostalgic masculinity,
finding refuge from its so-called crisis in memories of redundant empire-building,
passionate comradeship and desperate self-sacrifice.
No wonder boys like our redheaded homeoerotically charged ass-grabber
are enraptured: BSP's maleness is as alien to the modern man of today
as a pin-up girl's longline bra, powermesh girdle and RHT stockings might
be to me, with similar reversionist appeal.
Back to the redhead. I tug the palm-staring boy's shirt-tails, and tell
him I'm going to be interviewing the band the next day. Is there anything
he'd like me to ask them? He looks surprised for a moment, then smiles
and tells me he wants to join them. Sign up. Leave all this. His
friends laugh at him as I scribble his words down, and the next day, sitting
in the Alpine-styled barn that will host that evening's gig, I pop the
question. What lies in store for the band's newest auxiliary member?
Appropriately, it's Hamilton who has the answer.
'Colonic irrigation.' You what? 'That's how we'd grow our new band member.
We'd clean all the shit out of him. Get rid of all the rubbish. Start
afresh.' Singer Yan – Hamiton's brother – agrees. 'Once we'd
made him clean and new, we'd teach him things. I'd teach him about Haruki
'And I', says Eamon, 'would teach him how to make a fire. I've been learning
how to build the perfect fire – with oak, maple, beech, ash, hickory,
all properly seasoned. And an apple log because it smells lovely.' Noble
smiles and lights a cigarette. 'I'd feed him temazepam and take him to
a field and make him listen to the cows.'
'Yeah and then', says Hamilton, 'I'd make him walk from Leeds to Kendal.
It's 81.96 miles. I did it once.' And that's it? Hamilton nods. 'That's
what it would take. And if he can do all that…then he's in.'
Redheaded assgrabber, I hope you're listening.
1) Open Season is out now on Rough
2) This article previously appeared in the rather fab Good
For Nothing magazine. Get one - it's free!
3) My wife insists that I insert the following line at the end of what
she calls this 'exceedingly fey' article: 'Shame
they sound like U2 really, isn't it?'
3) Nobody shagged anybody in any tree