BELLE & SEBASTIAN – Write About Love (Rough Trade)

It’s good to see Belle & Sebastian back after their four year hiatus, and it’s also good to hear that the band haven’t gone away to ‘rethink their purpose’. We love B&S as they are, and this new album doesn’t disappoint. Isobel Campbell has been replaced by Sarah Martin, but other than that it is business as usual, with Stuart Murdoch coming up with a set of songs that cover the standard B&S lyrical subjects of falling in and out of love, being bored at work, and the general minutia of daily life. ‘I Didn’t See It Coming’ gives Sarah her first chance to prove herself, and she doesn’t let herself down. The song is quite an uptempo piece for a Belle & Sebastian track – even having a bit of a dancey feel to it – and it is the perfect song to welcome back the band. ‘Come On Sister’ is Stuart’s turn on vocals, on another up-tempo track that deals with love and loss. ‘Calculating Bimbo’ is a rather odd little song, as from its title you would expect it to be a scathing attack on a former girlfriend, but it comes across as more pitying than angry. ‘I Want The World To Stop’ is B&S at their poppiest, almost as if they had decided to deliberately write a hit single. ‘Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John’ seems to be the track that has divided the critics the most, with a lot of them making the point that why would you want to do a duet with Norah Jones when you have Sarah Martin in the band. I can see their point, as apart from Murdoch’s vocal at the beginning of the track it is pretty much Jones’ vehicle all the way, and no-one listening to it for the first time would ever guess that it is a Belle & Sebastian song. Personally, I quite like Norah Jones and don’t mind it too much, but even I have to admit that it does bring the album to an abrupt halt in the middle, and it would perhaps have been better placed at the end. The title track brings things right back on track with another great indie-pop song about boring everyday life – one of Murdoch’s stock in trade lyrical subjects. ‘I’m Not Living In The Real World’ really should be released as a single – it is that good. A bouncy tune, great chorus, and a commercial production all make this the perfect vehicle for the band to get some well-deserved airplay. ‘Read The Blessed Pages’ is a classic Murdoch song of lost love, and if you read between the lines you realise that it is probably about former girlfriend Isobel Campbell. Still a lovely song, though, and set to one of his seemingly endless supply of beautiful melodies. Things pick up again with ‘I Can See Your Future’, which incorporates a funky brass section and some lush strings, and ‘Sunday’s Pretty Icons’ closes proceedings with a great mid-tempo ballad, and bringing things full circle it also has something of the dance vibe that the opening track displayed. With their eighth studio album in fifteen years I might have expected a drop in quality, but if there is one thing you can depend on it is music of the highest calibre. This is no exception, and if you have any affection for the band then you owe it to yourself to get this record.

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