After seemingly spending the last two years on tour, it's amazing that British Sea Power have managed to put out a new album at all. That 'Open Season' is a step forward is a testament to the talents of this most idiosyncratic of bands. It could almost be feasible to think that they would embrace their own quirkiness and create a wilfully subversive record that would please only themselves in the long term. Yet 'Open Season' is a sophomore, reflective set of songs which should convince the doubters that they are an albums act after all. The unusual subject matters are still at the core of their songs ('Oh Larsen B' is dedicated to an Antarctic ice shelf) but more prominent is the way in which the blasts of noise that punctuated the debut have been replaced by a more consistent tendency to draw on some classic melodies. Sometimes it's possible to hear The Smiths and Echo And The Bunnymen - in particular the latter's 'Ocean Rain' - in their epic vision but this is a group who are equipped with their own unique talents. 'It Began On An Oily Stage' and 'Like A Honeycomb' contain beautiful life-enhancing choruses whilst the bouncy, poppier 'Victorian Ice' is like a modern sea shanty. It's worth noting that the lovely centrepiece ballad 'North Hanging Rock' was produced by Bark Psychosis' Graham Sutton who was also instrumental in last year's superb Delays album. Finally, when Hamilton takes over frontman duties from the usual vocalist Yan, he gives the two concluding songs a perfectly suitable graceful quality. It seems inevitable there will always be a mystique attached to British Sea Power but their songs have the all-important human touches of a great band.