Best Albums 2008: 5 – Do You Like Rock Music?

The critical response to British Sea Power’s latest album was extremely mixed. While some viewed the release as a powerful, epic album, others (like Pitchfork) saw an album with empty words and meaningless lyrics. As evidenced by its position here, I see Do You Like Rock Music as the former – it is a breathtaking release that offers an amazing heft with each song.

The defense of British Sea Power should begin with the stunning second track, “Lights Out for Darker Skies.” From the opening note, the band is off and running. Bombastic drums lead the way as a valiant guitar line calls out a melody. The song then transforms into a singing part as the band calls out “welcome for the day or stay forever.” This line is particularly fitting – the song is very accessible upon first listen, but offers room for boundless exploration. This is followed by the amazing “No Lucifer,” a song of exploration and successes. The constant refrain of the song title is as powerful as it is captivating. Similarly, the chants of the whole band shoot right through the guitars and enter the ears.

Perhaps most impressive about Rock Music is the consistency of each song. Even though the whole thing sprawls across 12 tracks, there is no low point, no loss of power. Each track explodes with a size and urgency that is unrivaled in modern music. Every song is an anthem, filling up any space. This is an album that should really be heard over speakers – headphones dampen the effect.

Of course, there remains the matter of meaning. Those who speak against the album claim that it is large and gorgeous, but does not hold any real substance. While some songs hold rather cryptic lyrics, the entire effect is far from empty. The raw emotion and power in each vocal phrase, every drum strike and the soaring guitar parts is undeniable. That such feeling can be conveyed on a large scale is very impressive. Ultimately, this album is a collection of powerful songs that work well together in creating an epic display of sound and emotion. The quality is stunning, and the album is one of the year’s best.

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