REVIEW: Belle & Sebastian – “The Party Line”
by Chad Jewett
The last decade has found Scottish melancholy-pop collective Belle & Sebastian adding richer, brighter shades to the sepia-toned, autumnal ennui that defined classics like Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister. 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress filtered in joyful Stax/Motown soul-pop; the perennially underrated 2006 masterpiece The Life Pursuit went stadium rock-via-glam, the sound of The Smiths as remixed by Thin Lizzy and Combat Rock-era Clash. “The Partly Line”, our first listen from the band’s forthcoming ninth album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, continues that expansive streak by borrowing some of the pliant, subtly-perfectionist disco that Daft Punk revived to magnificent effect on last year’s Random Access Memories. Neon electric organs and jittery, skeletal guitars whorl and chatter in the margins and singer Stuart Murdoch does his wispy, conversational thing over a four-on-the-floor beat, faux-woodwinds and a rubbery bass-line. Murdoch gets a solid hook out of the title (“JUMP to the beat of the party line”) and the whole thing is expertly crafted, if slightly staid in its allegiance to a very specific archive of U.K-indie-pop-goes-dancing (see Saint Etienne, Blur, etc… etc…), a vein we might expect the band will be mining further given the album title. Either way, it’s nice to see Belle & Sebastian continuing to play with new possibilities.