After nearly 20 years since their formation Belle and Sebastian have hit album number 9 and as expected, it is incredible. Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance marks the nineteenth year of this band of Glasgow born Indie Rockers, and has been described by frontman Stuart Murdoch as “the most personal [he has] ever written”.
Belle and Sebastian are what I imagine the cast of ‘friends’ would have looked like if the show was based in the UK (and had a more uneven male to female ratio). However, appearances aside, the newest album from this gang of Scottish born musicians brings moving vocals head to head with synthy goodness so you’re not quite sure whether to reflect upon the world, or get yo groove on. Luckily Murdoch intertwines a scattering of his classic acoustic numbers throughout the album to cool us all down. ‘Ever Had a Little Faith?’ is a beautiful example of this, acoustic guitar and soothing vocals with an optimistic feel to it makes for a cheery little love song, a perfect intermission.
If there is one thing that Belle and Sebastian are, it is consistent, but this album watches as the indie-pop connoisseurs put on their dancing shoes and up the funk (yes I said it). The familiar sound is still there, but the band have really gone to town in exploring a range of genres with this album. From acoustic whispered vocals in ‘The Cat with the Cream’, to African style drums in ‘Perfect Couples’ you really cannot predict where the next track is going to take you. Is that a Europop number I see? Yes, yes it is.
However every style is mastered and performed perfectly, reassuring fans who may have ever questioned their talent and skill. Twanging guitar and jazzy saxophone adds life to many of the tracks, but the range of drum beats and skill in this album ramp it up to an even higher level. Everything just works.
Every song has enough substance to stand alone and the standard of the music produced throughout the album really shows a band that are at the top of their game. ‘Nobody’s Empire’ is my personal favourite and a song which sums up the standard to which the band has risen. However, it may be argued that the songs are perhaps too individual as there doesn’t seem to be a clear theme to the album as a whole. Comprising of a strange cocktail of politics, love, protest and life it is not sure whether the album resembles a diary or a presidential speech, as each song appears to choose a style and just run with it. Fans may struggle to keep up.
There is almost a disturbing underlying feel to the album as a rocky drum beat, jovial vocals and soothing piano music masks the uncomfortable and somewhat hard-hitting lyrics. However ‘Today (This Army’s For Peace)’ does end the album with an optimistic feel, albeit with an eerie undertone.
After a four year wait, Belle and Sebastian have returned in style producing an album that is everything fans could want, and then some. The amalgamation of politics, popfunk and tambourines makes for a masterpiece of an album, which, when played, doesn’t just make ‘girls in peacetime’ want to dance.