Belle & Sebastian – How To Solve Our Human Problems

Belle and Sebastian have always produced the kind of music which is delicate on the eardrums, yet with a feisty rock n roll streak tearing through its core. They’re one of those bands who you think you’ve got figured out, then they go off and do something unexpected. Live, their gigs transform into a communal party, with frontman Stuart Murdoch regularly inviting the audience onto the stage to dance their socks off, and if you think us Belle and Sebastian fans are the shy, timid types, think again! Once that invite goes it’s every indie boy and girl for themselves as the scramble to get close to the stage and be invited upon to it, gathers steam. Beatlemania had nothing on this – I’ve lost buttons and earrings in the commotion!

Anyway, the more recent albums have tried to bring more of that party feel to their recorded output, still within the realms of the Belle and Sebastian sound but warped that little bit more. So, from those gentle guitar beginnings to entering an alternative disco universe for last album ‘Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance’, now they release their tenth album, ‘How To Solve Our Human Problems’. It’s not so much a typical studio album as a collection of three EPs released over the last few months. The album kicks off with the disco tinged overtones of ‘Sweet Dew Lee’ with its oscillating synth sounds and futuristic electro atmosphere. It’s Belle and Sebastian but a more ultramodern model of them. It’s a sound that runs through the whole album, from the classic French pop orchestrations of ‘Fickle Season’, ‘Same Star’ and ‘Poor Boy’ to ‘We Were Beautiful’ with its German electronica inspired undercurrent, mingling with an explosively uplifting chorus to contrast against those darker verses. Although in Belle and Sebastian’s world, nothing is ever really that moody – there are shades of intensity throughout but it’s always beautifully balanced with a gorgeous melody or rousing chorus as ‘Everything Is Now Pt 1’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Pilot’ demonstrates. There’s more guitar led fayre on ‘Show Me The Sun’, proving that there’s still a rock n roll heart beating within their soundscapes.

They may have moved into more disco pop territory in comparison to their earlier, more delicate songs, yet there’s still a defiant streak of burning rock n roll abandon running through the whole album, proof that more than twenty years on, Belle and Sebastian are still an ever evolving collective of musical brilliance.

Belle & Sebastian ‘How To Solve Our Human Problems – Part 3’ will be released on Matador on February 16th

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.