The latest album is Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, and while there are still some charming twee pop ditties, there are also a number of songs that provide something less delighting.
While experimentation and growth can be important in keeping a band from getting stale, it is inexplicable why Belle & Sebastian chose to stick with their electronic machinations as long as they do on this record.
The big dance beats of "The Party Line" make you want to say 'what the fuck'. It doesn't get much better on the generic indie electronic of "The Power of Three" or the flashy disco of "Enter Sylvia Plath". "Perfect Couples" seems to draw inspiration directly from some of Happy Mondays' more stoner material.
The dark and moody "The Everlasting Muse" warps into a Middle Eastern-influenced waltz at times, while "Play For Today" appears to be heavily influenced by the stage production of The Lion King.
The album's best pop gem is it's first track (which makes what follows even more disappointing). "Nobody's Empire" is the kind of sweet, nerdy and melodic cut that has endeared the Scottish outfit to so many fans. The jangly "Allie" and the vibrant, full-sounding The Book of You (also one of the few songs not sung by Stuart Murdoch) hit the right buttons.
Belle & Sebastian have had filler on their records in the past, so we shouldn't be surprised to hear some this time out either. In this case, the snoozy "The Cat With The Cream", and "Ever Had a Little Faith" fall firmly in the 'fine' category.
Girls In Peacetime is not a terrible album, but I've come to expect something different from Belle & Sebastian, and I can't help but be incredibly disappointed when I don't get that.
Belle & Sebastian play Massey Hall in Toronto on April 1st.
Best tracks: "Nobody's Empire", "The Book of You"
Track listing for Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance:
- Nobody's Empire
- The Party Line
- The Power of Three
- The Cat With the Cream
- Enter Sylvia Plath
- The Everlasting Muse
- Perfect Couples
- Ever Had a Little Faith
- Play For Today
- The Book of You
- Today (This Army's for Peace)