Twee indie poppers return with strongest album in a decade
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance give you a strong indication on Belle and Sebastian’s intentions with their new album. In the past their album titles were slightly opaque. Tigermilk, If Your Feeling Sinister, The Boy with the Arab Strap, Fold Your Hands Child You Walk like a Peasant and Dear Catastrophe Waitress didn’t really give too much away about the contents, other than they liked longer album titles. I guess if you take your name from an obscure set of French children’s books and TV series, all this is forgiven.
The album starts with classic sounding Belle and Seb. Nobody’s Empire could easily have come from the sessions of Arab Star or Catastrophe Waitress. Lots of piano, guitar and percussion topped off by Stuart Murdoch’s trademark lithe vocals. Allie is another classic sounding track. It’s a jaunty bouncy track. Track three however is where things start to go in uncharted waters. This change in direction is down to producer Ben H Allen. Allen has made his name producing quality albums for the likes of Cut Copy, Animal Collective and Bombay Bicycle Club. The Party Line is a stompy indie-disco number. Later on Enter Sylvia Path pushes this indie-disco sound futher. Play for Today starts off with massive 80’s keyboards and an Afro-Beat. As the song progresses the dancier elements until the end when, weirdly, it starts to resemble Dario G’s club hit Sunchyme.
Murdoch’s song writing is as strong as ever. The tracks are chocked full of laments, pathos, heartbreak, comedy and excellent word play. So lyrically this is business as usual. What is commendable on this album, is that after 9 albums Belle and Seb have decided to try something different, but without losing their sound. Yes when the dancier tracks start it takes you back, but once they’ve finished you realise that the lyrics weren’t sacrificed for a 4/4 beat.
The main problem with this album is that have of the album sounds like an Erasure and Friendly Fires hybrid, the other half is classic Belle and Seb. This contrast in the music makes for a disjointed listen, however lyrically it’s business as usual. You get the impression that the band had fun making this album, as it’s one of their most upbeat. While this is the strongest album they have released in over a decade, it might alienate the original fan base. Who’d have thought that Belle and Seb could alienate the alienated?