British Sea Power, Liquid Room, Edinburgh

A voyage of discovery
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The Independent Culture

Thank heavens for the survival of mavericks in a musical landscape otherwise dotted with formulaic "alternative" bands. The ability to divulge even a fraction of its creators' persona is really the only calling card that modern guitar music needs to set itself beyond the norm. Of the current crop, British Sea Power plead a much stronger case for our affections than their peers Bloc Party or the Kaiser Chiefs. The Brighton quintet marry direct and unfussy humalong choruses with a particular level of personal eccentricity that might be described as "typically British".

Thank heavens for the survival of mavericks in a musical landscape otherwise dotted with formulaic "alternative" bands. The ability to divulge even a fraction of its creators' persona is really the only calling card that modern guitar music needs to set itself beyond the norm. Of the current crop, British Sea Power plead a much stronger case for our affections than their peers Bloc Party or the Kaiser Chiefs. The Brighton quintet marry direct and unfussy humalong choruses with a particular level of personal eccentricity that might be described as "typically British".

British Sea Power are probably trying just as hard as the next band to contrive an image for themselves, but there's a certain level of individuality about youthful fantasists who dress in combats and puttees on stage, reference Wilfred Owen in their music and refer to themselves by singular names like a band of unknown soldiers fighting an already doomed battle.

What this means, cheating though it may be, is that British Sea Power - perfectly resonant yet meaningless name and all - come with a ready-made mythos surrounding them, an elegiac mystery that most other bands strive to create by playing unannounced gigs in their local pub or art gallery and hoping word gets around. It's an extra dimension that would signifynothing were they not so adept at creating with a flourish everything from three-minute epics to apocalyptic quarter-of-an-hour jamming marathons.They do so with a unique sense of scale that pushes them far closer to bold stadium experimentalists such as Radiohead and away from the twee platitudes of Keane.

The first case in point: they open the show with their two autograph tunes to date, a move that would leave most of the competition floundering to fill the time until curfew amid their old B-sides. And what a double they make. "It Ended On an Oily Stage", the first single from their second album Open Season, translates to the stage intact as a blissful, wide-eyed approximation of Echo and the Bunnymen's rolling guitar chime, with the singer Yan (these boys go by surnames only) slipping into breathless Bowie-like vocal stylings.

"Remember Me", the standout anthem of debut long-player The Decline of British Sea Power - and of their career to date - repeats the vocal allusions to the Thin White Duke. This time, though, The Fall present the musical template, with an intro that refers directly to said band's "Victoria".

Spotting such origins usually presents a rod with which less merciful critics can beat the lazy tendencies of young, identity-seeking bands, but in this case the musical borrowings act as pleasant signposts towards the lineage in which British Sea Power will hopefully one day be placed. Sonic fragments of past British outsiders emerge throughout a set that maintains an exuberant pace and uplifting tone throughout. For example, the skewed, yelping, thrash-punk of "Apologies to Insect Life" references Julian Cope; "Fear of Drowning" calls to mind the fuzzy tones of My Bloody Valentine; "Oh Larsen B" mingles a little of all of the above.

Yet such points of recognition meld together perfectly in practice as a sound that, at its peak, harks back to such greats just enough to amuse those who enjoy recognising such things, yet also stands as the work of an ambitious, cohesive musical unit. Younger fans close their eyes and sing along to their favourite lyrics while older heads at the back nod along in approval.

As if to prove that they're responsible only to themselves in the end, the slow-building closer "Lately" escalates into a 15-minute flurry of rising guitars from Noble and Hamilton, repeated codas and Yan's punctuated, pleading vocal. After such a finale, only the feeling that these are musicians who utterly deserve to join their heroes' massed ranks remains.

Touring to 13 April ( www.britishseapower.co.uk)

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