Belle & Sebastian have returned after an absence of five years from the music scene (this seems to be a recurring theme of late!) like the prodigal son of eerie indie dream pop. But are we happy to see them, or do we want to send them on their way?
The album is an odd mix of disco and their more familiar brand of dream like folk pop that is their normal style, and I’m not sure it entirely works well at either because it doesn’t fully commit to either one idea. If this had been an entire album that had been a disco departure, like the sublime Random Access Memories by Daft Punk I feel like it could have been a lot stronger. However, what we get instead is the band dipping their toe into something that doesn’t really feel like it works, which is a shame because when they play to their strong points on this album of playing nostalgic yearning pop they largely succeed. Tracks like Nobody’s Empire and The Cat With the Cream are both really strong tracks that speak of the Belle & Sebastian we know, whilst the disco tracks are pretty catchy, but ultimately just don’t feel as strong.
The Party Line is a real departure from Belle & Sebastian’s style, taking the form of a Eurovision dance track rather than the wistful pop they normally trade in, it’s actually pretty catchy. The Power of Three continues the disco theme, and is a breathy Abba-esque tribute to the Three Muskateers which immediately called to mind memories of Dogtanian & the Three Muskahounds and also 80’s anime themes.
This isn’t to say that Girls in Peacetime is a bad album, but it does feel half-baked, and I feel like it would have benefited much more by choosing to either be a complete departure from what Belle & Sebastian normally do, or to be a traditional album by them. It feels like two albums fused together that only sort of works, which is a shame because the potential for an interesting album lies beneath the skin.
It’s worth giving the album a listen, but I don’t know if I can recommend buying the full album. Luckily the band put up a stream of the whole album on NME recently, so if you’re curious, check it out.
However, I would definitely recommend seeing them at Sound City this year. Although I don’t think this album succeeded at what it set out to do they’re still a great band with a great discography of songs that you’d be a fool to miss out on Live.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.