When a band like Belle And Sebastian return with a new album, what you want is enough of their past sound to make it distinct and recognisably theirs mixed with a little new direction to keep things feeling fresh and that’s exactly what we go in Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance. It’s a none-stop Gatling gun of of indie pop excellence with a lot of variety packed into its twelve song track-list, making it a quality new outing for the Glaswegian band.
Sparkling synth combines with trademark smart lyrics and crystal vocals from Stuart Murdoch on album opener Nobody’s Empire and they’re defining features of the majority of the record. However, there’s a big swing between tracks as the band introduces a fair amount of variation to craft a beguiling new release that’s packed with layers of reference and meaning.
Classical instrumentation is used on the likes of Allie with some impressively low-gloaming flute melodies, and these give way to brilliant electronic disco funk on lead single, Party Line. There’s even an element of baroque pop futurology on the Musketeer homage that is The Power Of Three, which is one of only two songs on the album to feature lead vocals from Sarah Martin. It’s a clever track that picks at the importance of numbers in our understanding of things, whether it’s the ambiguous nature of the title of Alexandre Dumas’ 19th century novel or the relationship triangle of Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson and Moriarty to the omission of Inspector Lestrade and Mrs Hudson.
Belle And Sebastian know how to craft a slow, simple beauty too, which is evident in abundance in The Cat With The Cream, which has got more witty lyrics and a fluttering violin riffle. There’s more solid disco action in Enter Sylvia Plath, a slight dip into lounge room territory and Baltic pop on The Everlasting Muse, stylish new wave electronica on Perfect Couples with Stevie Jackson on lead vocals, and a nice throwback to their 1998 album, The Boy With The Arab Strap, in Ever Had A Little Faith.
Our favourite track from Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance has got to be Play For Today, with its genius lyrics and addictive inspiration. The keyboard solo is sheer pop joy, coming on the back of brilliant spaceship electronic notes and the ebb and flow undercurrent of the verse and chorus. Stuart Murdoch is joined on vocals by guest singer Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls, which gives a sort of parallel viewpoint for the direction of the story behind the song.
The Book Of You is the second song on the album that sees Sarah Martin taking over lead vocals on a track that threatens to deceive mediocrity, but goes on to shoot upwards with classic indie pop direction in the chorus. It reiterates the importance of romance and artistic tendencies to the band, confirming the sheer deep thinking that clearly goes into the creation of all of their music.
The record, which is available on CD, digital download and double 12″ vinyl with digital download voucher, is closed out with the reverb-laced beauty, circular rhythm and slow beats of Today (This Army’s For Peace). It’s at this point that you realise that you’ve just listened to a genuine gem of an album that doesn’t have an inch of flab or fold tucked into it’s well rounded cascade of pop excellence. There isn’t a track on it that isn’t worth going back for and that’s no easy thing to accomplish in the modern age of music, but it shows that when you take your time over producing an album it can result in something a little bit special.
Belle And Sebastian, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance review: 4.3/5