Belle and Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

Almost two decades have passed since  debut album Tigermilk made Glasgow’s Belle and Sebastian instant darlings of the British indie scene. Their fey, winsome chamber pop attracted an audience not overly enamoured by the machismo of popular rock acts of that time like Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine.

Follow up album If You’re Feeling Sinister was a near perfect record, high on lo-fi charm, with a loose immediacy that cemented their place as every cool indie kid’s favourite new band. Well those indie kids have grown up, and it appears Belle and Sebastian have too; lapsed fans may find the shiny surfaces and pristine synths something of a shock to the system on ninth album Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance.

It’s some distance  from the infectious, ramshackle innocence of those early records – there are still traces of their halcyon days on the delicately beautiful ‘Ever Had a Little Faith’ and opener ‘Nobody’s Empire’ and ‘The Book of You’ are wonderfully sophisticated adult pop songs. But elsewhere, their stab at a form of post-ironic dance music is less successful – ‘The Party Line’, ‘Enter Sylvia Plath’ and ‘Perfect Couples’ are songs that fall into  that niche category: dinner party dance music.

It makes for an oddly uneven listen, tracing a bumpy path from the sure-footed and melodic brilliance of songs like ‘The Cat with The Cream’ to ‘Play For Today’, where the band sound like they are operating way outside their comfort zone.

Many of the elements that so endeared Belle and Sebastian to music fans remain – the songs are well crafted, Stuart Murdoch still writes lyrics with a certain wry flair but this grown up version of Belle and Sebastian lacks the ingredient that was their hallmark right from the outset – real and genuine charm.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)