In 2006, Belle & Sebastian released The Life Pursuit
, much to the chagrin of long-time fans who claimed the album "didn't sound like them." But from "Electronic Renaissance" to "A Space Boy Dream" to the second half of Dear Catastrophe Waitress, the band has never been shy to experiment. Tony Hoffer's production work brought the album a cleaner sound, and a few tracks carried some jazz undertones, but they weren't playing death metal or anything. So if you're hoping for a return to form, I'm afraid you might be disappointed — but I'm still not sure how far they strayed.
For what it's worth, nothing from Belle & Sebastian's latest album, Write About Love
, will sound too unfamiliar. "Read The Blessed Pages" would feel right at home on The Boy With The Arab Strap, while the title track sounds perfectly reminiscent of "If You Find Yourself Caught In Love". In fact, most of the album does. And here's where things get a little bit strange: true to the title, nearly every track is a love song, but unlike the band's characteristic juxtaposition of upbeat music against profoundly sad lyrics, most of these are optimistic.
Ironically, I'm not convinced they had their hearts in this one. "Come On Sister" sounds like "Funny Little Frog", with a considerably less impressive chorus ("And it's fun, thinking of you like a movie star / And it's dumb, thinking of you like the way that you are"), and the call-and-response laden "I'm Not Living In The Real World", with its gratingly saccharine instrumentals, could be struck from their catalogue without complaint. That's not to say there aren't a few stand out songs — the title track, which features actress Carey Mulligan, is infectious enough, and a duet between Norah Jones and Stuart Murdoch on "Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John" provides a pleasant novelty, if nothing else. "I Want The World To Stop" is easily the strongest track on the record, and a few more like this could have gone a long way.
Belle & Sebastian have always loved to experiment with new sounds, and once in a while, it goes awry. But the best songs on the album all sound like the band might have written them anyway. The group seems to be at their best when, instead of writing about love, they write about whatever comes natural to them.
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MP3: "Write About Love"
Belle And Sebastian on Myspace