I'm a big Belle & Sebastian fan - have been since I heard them on Mark Radcliffe's olf Radio 1 show back in late '96 - so a new album from the band is always something to look forward to. Things have changed for them over the years, going from the lo-fi shambolic twee outfit they were to the indie superstars they are today - selling out big venues like Hammersmith Apollo in the blink of an eye. And they've also enhanced their sound a bit - last album 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress' seeing them with a higher production values, and experimenting with glam rock and new wave sounds.
But what of the new? The first five, or even six tracks on The Life Pursuit are as good as anything they're recorded before, with evidence of both the 'classic' sound (Act of the Apostle, Another Sunny Day) and the 'new' sound buidling on the innovations of 'DCW' (The Blues are Still Blue, White Collar Boy). However, given the title, it's appropriate to say that this is a bit of a Paula Radcliffe of an album - starts off with great promise, and then fails when it's beginning to look good. Maybe I need to give it more time, but I can't help but think that the second half of the album falls a bit flat.
There's almost a wobble on 'We are the Sleepyheads' where a dodgy experiment with vogueish spiky guitars is saved by a killer melody, but after that it's the poor Sly Stone imitation 'Song for Sunshine'. I've seen the band doing Stone before - A great version of 'Everyday People' at their Albert Hall show in 2001 - but this song is just weak. And save for the familiar 'Funny Little Frog' the rest of the album doesn't live up to expectations.
So (just over) half a great album. But let me assure you that good half is well worth it, and who knows, maybe I'll come to love the other half too...
Here's a couple of my current favourites.
Download The Blues are Still Blue
Download Act of the Apostle