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coverpic flag Scotland - Full Moon 226 - 02/04/15

Belle and Sebastian
Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance
Matador Records

Once again Stuart 'Stewpot' Murdoch and his Belle & Sebastian gang step forward and present a new album. Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance is the band's eight album since their wee start with Tigermilk way back in 1996. This is their first studio album since 2010's Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, which didn't fit my taste (or mood) at the time. Two years ago they put out their (second) compilation album, The Third Eye Centre, which was partly quite cool and entertaining within its diversity. At least for some time. It has been more than 17 years since we here at Luna Kafé checked out the three singles/EPs) B & S put out during 1997. Since then we have listened to their light-footed pop music (more or less) regularly over the years.

Besides band leader Stuart Murdoch, Belle & Sebastian are Stevie 'Reverb' Jackson (guitar and vocals -- he's singing lead vocals on one track), Sarah 'Sadie' Martin (violin, melodica, guitar, flute, and more -- she is doing lead vocals on two songs), Chris 'Beans' Geddes (keyboards), Richard 'Rico' Colburn (drums), and Bob 'Belfast' Kildea (bass and guitar). Opening song, "Nobody's Empire" - their latest single, the second presenting this album (launched a couple of weeks before Christmas) - is a prime B & S popper, getting started with castanets and all. According to Murdoch it's '...absolutely the most personal [song] I've ever written', holding a tale of Murdoch's health problems as a younger man. It is a heavenly pop song, for sure. However, the 'disco-beat-dancy' and bubbling "The Party Line" was the first taster from this album, as it was put out in late October. Like New Order's Bernard Sumner stepping into Electronic. But then, not quite like that either. The flute-driven "Allie" is more like a typical B & S song. It is a summer's breeze-like song, for the late, late summertime or fall. Sort of a magical mystery pop tune. "The Power of Three" (with lead vocals by Sarah) jumps the more soft dance-beat rhythm, being quite elegant and gracious. It is a nifty song. And, of course here are several shy, sugar-spun tracks being indeed very beautiful and delicate. Like (almost) always with B & S. Then, they often loose up for the dance floor, such as with the bouncy and catchy "Enter Sylvia Plath", which might is too dance-friendly for my taste. Yet, it is quite refreshing to have songs like this thrown in among the more 'typical' B & S songs.

The 12 tracks on Girls... has a total running time stretching over an hour, with more than half of the tracks clocking in at more than 5-7 minutes. Usually albums of this length is way too long for my ears and head. Yet, B & S do most of the right things to keep your interest. Doing different things all the time, letting the album flower in many directions. "The Everlasting Muse", which starts bossa-esque suddenly turns out to be something else, before returning to its bossa-exotic, Latino rhythm. The album was produced and mixed in Atlanta by Ben H. Allen III [who has been working with acts like Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective, Deerhunter]. I guess this is some answer to what Girls... has turned out to sound like. Sometimes they sound like a mixture of a laidback Blur and a dazed The Go-Betweens. At other times, they sound like something completely different. Most of the time they sound like... well, Belle and Sebastian. Themselves. One of the coolest tracks is "Play for Today" (clocking in at 7:33). It is another swaying, swirling, and danceable track, and it features the sweet voice of Dum Dum Girls' Dee Dee Penny. "The Book of You", the second song sung by Sarah, is also a sparkling, beaming and vivid pop song. Candidly catchy. With neat guitars! In all, Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance has got a good vibe to it. There is a good 'feel' throughout the album, which will bring you into a good mood. Leaving you less anxious and stressed. The more I play it, the starting troika of songs - "Nobody's Empire", "Allie" and "The Party Line" - is an indeed great opening of a strong album. Without doubt one of their best so far. Yet, if they had trimmed the album some, maybe even skipped a couple of songs (if I was the executive producer, but I am not), it would have been close to perfect within their genre. Anyway, the closing "Today (This Army's for Peace)" is a peaceful end of the platter. A record of peace, love, and dance. Even during wartime.

According to B&S's home page, Murdoch's finest moment was when asking Chrissie Hynde whether she knew if Ray Davies had ever heard The Pretenders' version of "Stop Your Sobbing". 'I should think so,' said Chrissie. 'I was married to him.'

Copyright © 2015 Håvard 'Melancholin' Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Belle & Sebastian articles/reviews: 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds Of Light, Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Dog on Wheels, Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley, CA, 22.08.2003, Lazy Line Painter Jane, The Life Pursuit, The Third Eye Centre, Warfield Theater, San Francisco, USA, 9.9.01.

© 2015 Luna Kafé