Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
It's the disco beat that starts off proceedings that makes you wonder. After recruiting Trevor Horn to produce the under-rated Dear Catastrophe Waitress this album still bares his influence - slightly more polished than previous efforts, those opening disco beats appear more frequently through the record than you may think. They've still got their overly literary lyrics dealing with the more mundane elements of life; there's songs about laundrettes, footie matches and cups of tea, but there's a bit more momentum here.
In fact, the only track on here that reminds me of the early Belle & Sebastian is Dress Up In You complete with brass section and gentle canter of a rhythm. This is one of my favourites on here, whether it's because it sounds more like their older material or because it isn't as polished as the other tracks, it seems a more touching and emotive song. For all the upbeat ness of Sukie In The Graveyard, Funky Little Frog and The Blues Are Still Blue there's something missing, they're almost too stylised for me - it's almost as if they've sold themselves out for a more commercial sound.
That's not to say that all these more polished songs are bad. White Collar Boy sounds like something Goldfrapp might produce if she'd spent the night with Stuart Murdoch, Song For Sunshine is a 70's glam-rock influenced stomp that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the last Super Furry Animals album and Act Of The Apostle parts I and II also hit the right note - a perfect pitch between the twee-indieness of their previous songs and the more Trevor Horn pop-ness.
You have to give Stuart Murdoch credit for wanting to move the band forward, they certainly couldn't have stayed playing their old twee-strummings for ever, but they seem to have lost their heart and soul in certain places. They've strived to refresh their sound but it seems to be missing the emotion and love that their early work contained. It's always nice to hear a new Belle & Sebastian record, the world would be a lot poorer without them, let's hope they can continue their move forwards but with a bit more heart.