Belle and Sebastian, The Life Pursuit

Elisabeth Vincentelli

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Life Pursuit

Belle and Sebastian

Whatever you think of Belle and Sebastian, it's hard to disagree with the fact that the Scottish combo is not only remarkably consistent, but it's managed to evolve without cringe-inducing growing pains. B&S have pretty much shed their unbearably twee image, for instance, and without resorting to drastic measures, like recording with Max Martin or hiring stunt guests; instead, Stuart Murdoch and his gang have grown organically, each album building upon the previous one. The band even survived the 2003 departure of Isobel Campbell, whose cello-playing and mellifluous vocals were long thought to be an essential part of the B&S sound.

Undeniably jaunty, fusing Thin Lizzy with T. Rex and the Association

This album, the follow-up to 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress and second without Campbell, has an undeniably jaunty bounce, but B&S are hardly dance floor kings — it's the arrangements rather than the beats that sneak in sly funky/soul touches. "Sukie in the Graveyard" is buoyed by a bopping organ and subtle horns, for instance, while the clavinet intro to "Song for Sunshine" nods toward classic Stevie Wonder, before the song takes a turn into Sly and the Family Stone territory. But the overall mood is that of a paen to late-'60s/early-'70s sunshine pop ("We Are the Sleepyheads," "White Collar Boy" and its shuffling, delicately glammy Backbeat, "The Blues Are Still Blue" and its little "96 Tears"-like organ coda).

So yes, it's yet another B&S album, but it's also yet another good B&S album. Any complaints?