Belle & Sebastian | Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador)

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When you skip past those dance songs, you end up with not such a bad album.

 

 

Belle & Sebastian are nothing if not consistent. I think it’s safe to say B&S are one of those bands that will always sound like themselves. With their new album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, you might think they finally jumped ship and are branching out, testing the current waters of dance-rock. But aside from those few dance tracks, this is undeniably a typical Belle & Sebastian album.

The opening track, “Nobody’s Empire,” will draw you in instantly. It has bitingly real, self-aware lyrics that are camouflaged with an upbeat, optimistic melody. It’s the strongest track on the record, but as you progress through the rest of the album, it becomes a disjointed batch of traditional B&S songs mixed with a little too much of everything. There’s no smooth flow from song to song. Second track “Allie” is the song that is undeniably a Belle and Sebastian tune. But beyond those first two it starts to get muddled. The jazzy, gypsy-inspired ballad, “The Everlasting Muse,” is another highlight that is unfortunately sandwiched between two dance tracks that fall very flat. Obviously, the more upbeat tracks are not Belle & Sebastian, but sound more like knockoffs of the Pet Shop Boys and Hot Chip. Frontman Stuart Murdoch’s lyrics tend to be very literal and a bit more intelligent, and it just doesn’t gel when you’re trying to get people to dance. When you skip past those songs, you end up with not such a bad album. They are just trying too much all at once.

As with most Belle & Sebastian albums, I tend to find myself drawn to one or two especially memorable songs and then feel rather indifferent about the rest. If you’re a B&S fan, you will like this album, as it’s exactly as you’d expect from them: a little explorative with some dance tunes, but firmly aware of who they are and what they do best. | Kiernan Scrima

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