thu 20/06/2024

CD: Belle And Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Belle And Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

CD: Belle And Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

Veteran Scottish indie band varied and seductive with new, shimmering sound

Belle and Sebastian: get up and dance

With this likeable and quietly adventurous release, fears that Belle and Sebastian were losing momentum, amid the distractions of Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl project, and the appearance of only two albums in nine years, can now be allayed.

If they haven’t broken through in quite the way that the successes of their 1990s albums might have predicted, after nearly 20 years the band hasn’t broken up either, and the creative fecundity of this collection suggests a rejuvenation in progress.

These songs combine a subtly modern sense of generic blending, combined with an old-fashioned craftsmanship of both music and lyrics. There’s a greater generic range than fans are possibly used to, and some very polished, erudite lyric-writing, an effective balance of the gnomic and the humorous. “Nobody’s Empire”, Stuart Murdoch’s first-person exploration of his experience of ME, combining resilience and vulnerability, is dense with narrative detail; the mood lifts for “Enter Sylvia Plath” and “Play for Today” (referring to the BBC dramas of 1970s and 1980s?), which are sprightly synth disco anthems, much more upbeat creations than any of the subject’s poems; “Everlasting Muse” has a swinging, Gypsy flavour. There’s a crystalline loveliness to the sound that can perhaps be attributed to producer Ben Allen. It brings out the lyrical purity of Sarah Martin’s singing, in particular. The passages of close harmony duet sound fantastic, and the shimmering reverb suits them well.

Belle and Sebastian are more Radio 4 than rock 'n' roll, and if you like your music to evoke a kind of screaming psychotic hedonism this is probably too amiable for you, but otherwise it’s hard to fault. Melodic, witty, thematically and musically diverse, danceable and beard-strokeable in equal measure, it won’t start any revolutions. Instead, it does something that’ll be more useful to most listeners, rewarding repeated listening with morsels of joy and discovery.

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