Back With an Updated Name, Sea Power Pick up Where They Left off With the Majestic Everything Was Forever
The indie vets are back for their first studio album in five years and again showing why they are one of the most underrated acts of the early 21st century.
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Last summer, Sea Power took to The Guardian to write a clarification on why they decided to drop “British” from their name after over twenty years as a band. In an act similar to Lady Antebellum and The Dixie Chicks, the Cumbrian group generated more press coverage than they are accustomed to in their history of tickling the UK charts.
Elbow’s Guy Garvey once said, “Not only do British Sea Power own the best name in history, they’re fucking great,” but in a time of rising fascism and misguided nationalism, the band wants nothing to do with it. Sea Power initially chose the name as a wisecrack, formed long after the UK’s aquatic heyday. As the group explains in a modern context:
“If we were called British Motorcycle Club we wouldn’t be changing our name. It was the combination of ‘British’ and ‘Power’ that no longer worked for us. We imagined a youngster at a European festival in the 21st century looking at the programme and seeing a band name including the word ‘Hungarian’ or ‘Russian’ alongside ‘Power’. It would likely send your mind in a certain direction – quite possibly to the isolationist, adversarial nationalism that has recently taken a hold around the world.”
It’s unfortunate that media sensationalism is what forced Sea Power’s hand into writing this column and gave them the publicity they’ve deserved for two decades. Starting with their volatile yet gorgeously atmospheric debut, The Decline of British Sea Power, Sea Power has been a club-sized band writing stadium-ready anthems that have always deserved more recognition. Instead of embracing a sound reset with the name change, the group wisely welcome their unique electrifying tendencies on their latest, Everything Was Forever.
The fragile state of the world is obviously on Sea Power’s minds throughout this ten-song set, and after co-leader Neil Hamilton Wilkinson’s gentle opener, “Scaring At the Sky,” brother Scott Wilkinson ponders, “I thought that we were all in this together, if you ever come back again, will you be more than a witness to the weather?” on the grooving “Transmitter.” The urgent matter of climate change has often been the subject of the band’s work going all the way back to “Larsen B,” a song from 2005 about the Antarctic ice shelf that collapsed three years previously (Larsen C fell in 2017). Some extraordinary takes on Everything Was Forever also deal with the subject like “Folly,” which works into excellent new electronic territory for the group as Neil Hamilton wonders, “when’s it gonna happen? Are we all fucked?” over a deceptively wistful hook. The previously released single “Green Goddess” is another one of these decisive numbers, a classic ode to nature that the band has perfected over the years that begs for the listener to choose the earth over capital.
While much of Everything Was Forever is full of big picture moments, there is also a multitude of tender tributes to family, memories, and the life experiences that come with middle age. The Wilkinson brothers lost both of their parents in between albums, and “Two Fingers” pays anthemic tribute as a play on their father’s favorite hand gesture. “Fire Escape In the Sea” is one that found the cutting room floor while the band was recording 2013’s Machineries of Joy but fitted in here admirably as founding guitarist Martin Noble keeps the mid-tempo number compelling with his reliable fretboard work. The nostalgic “Lakeland Echo” is another hidden gem, a lush aural postcard to not only days long gone but the defunct hometown newspaper that the Wilkinson brothers delivered.
By playing to their strengths, Sea Power has made the most radio-friendly record of their career, like the post-punk tenseness of “Doppelganger,” which finds the veteran band in a more intriguing state than anything on Yard Act’s overhyped debut. At the same time, Sea Power has never had their proper due, especially here in the States, and it always seems criminal that this band isn’t massive. Their journeys to this side of the Atlantic are rare, but I’ve been fortunate enough to see them twice. Maybe it has been a decade-plus, but their stadium-sized energy in front of a few hundred people is something you never forget.
After all of the band’s uneven results in film and videogame scores that have been their go-to in the last ten years, Everything Was Forever is a brilliant reminder of how powerful Sea Power is when they exercise their unique brand of cerebral indie rock. This record is easily my favorite of theirs since 2011’s Valhalla Dancehall.
Everything Was Forever is available now on Golden Chariot Records.