The quintessential happy-indie band, Belle and Sebastian, return with another album that is everything that can be expected from them. Stuart Murdoch’s vocals are sugar coated and sweet as ever, and every tune paints a refreshingly/incessantly (delete as appropriate) cheery picture of those sunny days Glasgow is renowned for. Even the monochrome cover photos remain, unfortunately minus the very hot catastrophe waitress of their former album.
Of course, don’t think this means there’s no variation in The Life Pursuit. Belle and Sebastian continue to innovate enormously. From the opening ‘Act Of The Apostle’ with its beautiful vocal harmonies and an understated but nevertheless memorable piano accompaniment, the album incorporates songs that take in the cool, effortlessly relaxed strains of ‘Mornington Crescent’, the funky, Stevie Wonder-esque verses of ‘Song For Sunshine’ (which, incidentally, sound eerily reminiscent of Lemon Jelly’s ‘The Fruity Track’, the subject matter on this occasion being honey-sweet apples, rather than millions of peaches), and the infectiously upbeat and catchy guitar of ‘We Are The Sleepyheads’. Belle and Sebastian even find room for dance hall crooning in my personal favourite, ‘To Be Myself Completely’.
But despite this variety, every track continues to sound unquestionably and indisputably cheery. And this is the album’s, and the band’s, success and downfall in one. When blessed with the correct demeanour, The Life Pursuit will perpetuate your mood and leave you feeling loved up and contented. But when feeling less positive, you may find yourself wanting to rip out Belle’s voice box and give Sebastian a good kicking. Indeed, call me a depressant, but the album often begins to grate after listening to more than six or seven tracks; the lack of respite from the continually upbeat songs and soft vocals leave it sounding twee. Listening to the album straight through can begin to seem something of a marathon.
So then, unless you’re Anthea Turner, be warned that The Life Pursuit can sometimes seem chirpy to the point of excess. But then you’d feel cheated by B&S if you got anything less.