Belle and Sebastian, ‘Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance’ – Album Review
Nearly 20 years since their beloved debut, ‘Tigermilk,’ Belle and Sebastian are saying to hell with the twee-pop image that has long since eclipsed their career – or at least in part. With their ninth album, ‘Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance,’ the Glaswegian seven-piece takes frontman Stuart Murdoch’s lit-fueled, acoustic ruminations and fuses them with dance-heavy beats and what can only be described as Belle and Sebastian’s version of disco anthems.
While sonically the band explores new ground on ‘Girls In Peacetime,’ Murdoch offers some of his most confessional lyrics to date in the lead-off track, ‘Nobody’s Empire.’ Paired with a shimmering beat, the Belle and Sebastian singer recently said the song addresses his experiences with chronic fatigue syndrome, which also helped inspire ‘Tigermilk.’ It’s these dynamics -- seemingly at odds with one another -- that the band goes on to play with and juxtapose for the next 11 songs.
Produced and mixed by Ben H. Allen III -- who lent similar savvy to Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective and Raury – ‘Girls In Peacetime’ does its best to be a dance-driven record, especially with Belle and Sebastian’s most club-ready cut yet, ‘The Party Line,’ and the Pet Shop Boys-esque, nearly seven-minute ode, ‘Enter Sylvia Plath.’
But the band never fully commits, giving listeners tracks that also harken back to their ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ days with ‘The Cat With the Cream’’s sweeping string arrangements and ‘Ever Had a Little Faith?’, which was actually written prior to the band’s 1996 debut (and they wear it on their sleeves).
But if Murdoch has been anything in his 20-year career, he’s been self-aware enough to recognize that it was built on the backs of young, moody, nose-in-books types. And he seems to be addressing that image head-on in ‘The Everlasting Muse.’
“She says, ‘Be popular, play pop and you will win my love,’” Murdoch concludes at the song’s end.
By straddling their past and future – a future that seems to hold plenty of dusty, Euro discos – Belle and Sebastian still manage to win us over.