Archive for January, 2015

Belle and Sebastian: Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador records)

READING THE MOJO annual review of 2014 I found a sense of despair at the lack of truly great pop music. A few years ago these lists would’ve been peppered by the likes of Pulp, Blur, James, The Libertines, and The Coral. A list off the top of my head, undoubtedly, but you see the point: bands that blended harmonies with sharp lyrics and attitude. Now, you tell me that Sharon van Etten is really what music is about. Girls in Peacetime Some solace is provided at the beginning of 2015 by these Glaswegians, who after nearly two decades have not lost their love of recording and writing, and have just released their ninth studio album, the first since the slightly disappointing Write About Love in 2010. The artwork, all dashing sepia, as its predecessor, is regretfully, contrived to the max: two gents in Chap-approved gear smile broadly holding wine glasses, a woman holds a crutch while trying to look disdainfully at the camera and another female stands within an empty picture frame holding a machine gun. It all looks awfully forced. Enlisting the man behind Gnarls Barkley as producer, Ben H.Allen, is tantamount to going disco. And so they have, as the likes of Enter Sylvia Plath, boom with Europop and energy and I’m reminded of Goldrapp a decade ago. It can’t be easy to adopt dance music if you’ve been an atypical twee-indie band for so long. And while I can applaud their diversity and am likely to play this particular track and it’s enthusiastic cousin, The Party Line, a few occasions, it sounds more like an idea born of lack of desperation than the product of a meeting between Bowie and Eno. Nobody’s Empire, the first out of the box, is, the band’s fulcrum, Stuart Murdoch, saying it is his most personal song ever, describing his battle with chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s being touted as the highlight of the album but while the lyrics are magnanimous it is musically insipid and hardly inspires me for the rest of the album. Allie, meanwhile, moves out with the confines of the bed Murdoch remains rooted to, and ventures out to the middle east (the use of lower case is the band’s making), or at least it highlights how the issues of other parts of the world, make us wonder about the state of the planet. Being the second track, it moves the album up a gear, thankfully, and then we have the disco-dolly anthem of The Party Line, which I am unsure, even after a few listens, is indie at its finest or a lame duck. This confusion may not necessarily be a bad thing. Girls in ...The Power of Three is essentially Belle and Sebastian as we know them, namechecking Sherlock Holmes and noting the old sage about “Keep your friends close/ Your enemies at your side.” Meanwhile, the mournful The Cat With The Cream reveals some contempt for politicians, with “a grubby little red MP/ Yellow flapping hopelessly”, the latter a reference surely to the appalling Liberal Democrats. Dee Dee Penny takes on vocal duties for Play For Today, carrying on a long tradition of Murdoch taking a backseat for a high-profile female singer, which has always been a successful venture. In terms of a Belle and Sebastian album this takes us on a new adventure with its dancefloor sensibilities, with the middle section of Enter Sylvia Plath being extraordinarily rousing, and pitching itself to daytime commercial radio producers. There’s beautiful string arrangements on The Everlasting Muse and a latino touch on Perfect Couples in which Murdoch bemoans the apparent happiness of others. And then there’s Ever Had a Little Faith? which could have come from any Belle and Sebastian album since 1996. It is flawed, but nevertheless, Girls In Peacetime comes at an apt moment, the beginning of the year after one that offered few real aural pleasantries and within a musical era that is as limp as the era between the break-up of The Beatles and The Small faces and the outbreak of punk. Be grateful for small mercies. See our review of Third Eye Centre: https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/hells-belles-and-sebastians And for Write About Love: https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/lowdown-on-the-new-21-wool-britannia/

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