I'm a recent convert to Belle and Sebastian. This is the first B&S album I've bought as it came out, and it's not really what I expected. This sounds more like a glam rock Bowie album.
Two things make this record better their best since If You're Feeling Sinister, which is now ten years old. 1) The record began without lead singer Stuart Murdoch, with the band just mucking around. The result is it never sounds like a band backing a songwriter, but rather a full band. 2) Stuart wrote all but one song in the end, anyway. So it doesn't sound like a mix tape of singers and songwriters.
The band are simply on fire. It's fun, it's groovy and heck, even a little sexy. It's 70s rock and 70s soul. There's a bit of Thin Lizzy, Stevie Wonder and plenty of sing-alongs. And the bass is right up the front and funking everything up. The singles - Funny Little Frog, White Collar Boy and The Blues Are Still Blue are the best singles they've ever released. They, god forbid, rock.
They aren't the only ones. There's at least three other songs that would sound great on radio. But thanks to Murdoch, they will never be considered cheap knock offs. He fills the songs with his unique point of view. Funny Little Frog is love song to an imaginary lover. And there's plenty of stories about lost and lonely young men and women. There's no way you can figure them all out in one listen.
Then there is the really out-there stuff. Song for Sunshine and We Are the Sleepyheads are almost psychedelic. Only two songs - Another Sunny Day and Dress Up In You sound like B&S of old - sensitive, poetic story songs with many verses. They give the album much needed space.
So I'm going to stop describing an album you may never have heard and just say, somehow, Belle And Sebastian of all bands has made my favourite party album this year. There's only one low moment - To Be Myself Completely, written and sung by guitarist Stevie. It just doesn't compare to the wonderful multi layered fun that Stuart Murdoch has come up with.
I've had this album since February and I still listen to it regularly. It may lack the bittersweet reflections they are known for, but who cares? Sometimes you need to stop thinking and just dance.