Belle and Sebastian

Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

Matador

Jan 19, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Bookmark and Share


To quote Woody Allen, relationships are "...absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs." Belle and Sebastian get it. Their ninth album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance features a cast of damaged idealists on the hunt for love. It isn't an unfamiliar theme for the band, which were self-aware enough to title their 2010 album Write About Love. Their musings on the subject still remain closer to Allen than Hallmark. "If I had a camera I'd snap you now, because there's beauty in every stumble," frontman Stuart Murdoch croons on opening track "Nobody's Empire." It's one of the album's many standout sweet nothings, his delivery devoid of cheap sentimentality.

There are many "classic" Belle and Sebastian moments, from the Dee Dee Penny (of Dum Dum Girls) duet "Play For Today," to "Allie," which wouldn't sound out of place on The Life Pursuit. But Girls in Peacetime is the sound of a band striving for a new sound while holding on to old ideas, with producer Ben Allen leading the charge. Juxtaposition is tricky business. The band carries off the romance vs. war motif, their cover featuring soldiers/lovers, and their lyrics are peppered with battle metaphors that never overshadow their main intent: to write a catchy song. ("I'm a gift to modern rock/she said be popular, play pop" Murdoch sings with an air of self-depreciation on "The Everlasting Muse.") Pairing their lithe vocals with synth and nu-disco beats yields mixed results. "The Party Line" remains playful enough to complement Murdoch's feathery vocals. "Enter Silva Plath" could have easily been the best track on a lesser band's album, but here the song's tropical beats and dance floor groove are an ill-fitting suit. Likewise, the approach feels too heavy for Stevie Jackson-led track "Perfect Couples," the gap between song's morose lyrics and playful instrumentals falling flat. Ultimately, it's difficult to argue with sincerity. Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance may be one of Belle and Sebastian's most mixed offerings to date, but it will certainly provide you with enough eggs to stick around. (www.belleandsebastian.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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