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British Sea Power

06/06/2012 By Ben Wright

So that’s the end of that then. Krankenhaus has been a significant part of my life since it began way back in January; I have welcomed the onset of each new month and have developed my own physical calendar based around the fading of the bruises on my skin. I have watched the bare twigs on stage gradually blossom throughout the year and as I entered The Haunt last Friday to the sweet smell of pine, I realised that summer was here at last. But all good things, as idiots say, must come to an end, and BSP ensured they gave Club Sea Power a bloody good send off.

May’s Krankenhaus 5 was a relatively subdued affair, mainly due to the fact that it was based around a performance of the band’s Open Season album. Compared to the rich autumnal golden brown of their debut, the multicoloured flag waving of Do You Like Rock Music and the neon lightning bolt that is Valhalla Dancehall, BSP’s sophomore LP can only really be described as beige. Granted, it has its moments, but a whole set of the stuff failed to get too many pulses racing. Even the terminally vigorous British Sea Power seemed strangely lethargic, Hamilton choosing to play the whole set in his dressing gown, presumably so that he could be carried straight off to bed in case he nodded off mid set. Rumour has it he was spotted brushing his teeth immediately before stepping on stage, just to be on the safe side. No chance of an early night this time though, the band forgoing the opportunity to play Man Of Aran in its entirety, and choosing instead for a barnstorming chronological run through all their singles, with one or two surprises to boot.

First up, we get the return of Brighton and Hove City Brass, who took K2 by storm with their cover of the A-Team theme. There are not many groups who would put a local brass band on as support, and this is a shame. Their rousing renditions of brass standards gets the front of the room dancing, and in some cases doing the cancan, although thankfully the majority of the audience politely turns down the invitation to strip. This is quickly followed by possibly the oddest act to play Krankenhaus; Keith Allen and his next door neighbour, Matt Eaton, performing an abridged version of their epic stage musical concerning some chaffinches who are evicted from their East London home to make way for the Olympic Village. Cue some OTT operatic miming in burkas, a whole load of silly voices, and the unsurprising revelation that Keith Allen is a pretty shit drummer. All this aside, when they get it right the pair come up with some ridiculously catchy tunes; all that’s missing is John Barnes rapping over the top, and if I hear their “Olympics Are Coming” theme tune one more time (they played it twice in their set, I think they must be particularly proud of that one), I fear it may well eat my brain.

So, two pretty unconventional support slots, but this is surely to be expected by now. But when British Sea Power take to the stage to play all their singles in order, and start off with their 4th release, Apologies To Insect Life, my inner pedant scratches his head for a second before having his hand forcibly yanked away by the surging masses, and decides instead to just go with it. A lot has happened in the past decade, maybe BSP have just forgotten the sequence of their records, or maybe they just don’t care, either way two minutes later we get their real debut, Fear Of Drowning, before the whole room erupts into Remember Me; two hundred people all singing the guitar intro is quite a thing to behold.

Choosing to play in this sequential format means we get all those early classics bunched together at the start, and a very early outing of The Spirit Of St. Louis, possibly too early as the set is not yet ready for an 18 minute noisefest, and so the song is reduced down to an almost polite length. Yells of “Louis! Louis!” become “Easy! Easy!” and we’re straight into No Lucifer, which is still fantastic, despite the fact I must have heard them play it five times already this year. Atom gets a warm welcome, as do the Valhalla tracks (although strangely no sign of Zeus), before the band is joined by Brighton and Hove City Brass for a repeat of their Waving Flags collaboration, complete with showers of confetti. One earlier omission, Carrion, is saved for the encore along with a cover of the WurzelsI’m A Cider Drinker, which slowly descends into the chaos of Rock In A. By this point the room is a sea of bodies, branches held aloft, thrashing at the mass of humans being tossed around above our heads, although for once Yan and Noble decline to partake in the crowdsurfing, and as a howl of feedback fades into the darkness the band exits the stage one last time, leaving Yan performing a solitary handstand for an inconceivable duration, before collapsing onto his guitar with a final almighty clang. Presumably in A.

Work is not over for Noble or Hamilton; they return for a midnight set from their Jonathan Richman tribute band, The Modern Ovens. Starting with Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste (although closer to the Galaxie 500 version), Noble plays drums as the rest of the band alternate between vocal duties; Hamilton gets a go on Astral Plane, and Brakes bassist and erstwhile BSP roadie Marc Beatty finally gets to step up to the mic. Finishing with a mass singalong of Roadrunner, it’s evident that Hamilton really is in love with rock’n’roll.

As we draw ever closer to the end, there’s another excellent Simon Price DJ set, this time including a Donna Summer/Robin Gibb tribute featuring choreographed dancers with some rather spangly watering cans, and the now traditional animals in hats. There will be a strange emptiness in Brighton on the 6th of July, but whenever I see a massive manky old bear stumbling up some stairs or getting his head stuck in a doorway, an indie kid bouncing around carrying a long leafy twig, or a cat in a wheelybin listening to Mastodon I will remember the true adventures we had on those Friday nights, and the spirit of St. Krankenhaus will live on. And I can’t help but feel that Club Sea Power will one day return to these parts, although hopefully next time we won’t have to wait ten years for the pleasure. x

Words:Ben Wright, Pictures:Simon Brice

British Sea Power : Krankenhaus 6
with Fit Les, Brighton & Hove City Brass and The Modern Ovens - 7:30pm Fri 1st Jun 2012 @ The Haunt
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