British Sea Power's debut LP may have gotten momentarily lost in the shuffle of new UK indie-rock bands when it was released, but it was always geared to seize the last laugh. The band's peers played stylish pop or shot for grand atmospheres, but the bulk of them felt mannered and manicured, all things in order. This Brighton act sported some of the same sounds and influences, but they ended up with something gnarled and wild and complicated — a dense, woody thicket next to the topiary gardens of their pop-rock competitors.
A song like "Carrion" might sport hooks any guitar band would kill for, but it also has a free-wheeling energy, like it could skip off its rails at any moment. (Pavement would be proud, but they'd never get this earnest; Frog Eyes would be proud, but they'd never get this pop.) That spirit is everywhere here, packed into dark ballads, sloppy blasts of fuzz, unpredictable jolts and melodies made ever-so-slightly sinister by the clenched, raspy voice delivering them — not to mention lyrics that jump out, bug-eyed, to grasp at your attention. "Oh Fyodor, you are the most attractive man!" begins one song; "Jesus fucking Christ, oh God no!" begins another. And unlike a lot of records, it's never entirely clear what'll happen after that.