ALBUM REVIEW: Belle and Sebastian - A Bit Of Previous

7/10

Belle and Sebastian - A Bit Of Previous

It’s a small slap in the face when the reality hits that the nineties are not ten years ago, but thirty. One joyful constant, helping you account for the years making up the last three decades, is the ever-growing back catalogue of Belle and Sebastian. A Bit Of Previous is the group’s tenth studio album, and their first album to be recorded in their native Glasgow in twenty years. Albeit not a deliberate choice, swapping California for Scotland due to the pandemic, has not only nurtured the making of an album, and allowed for the group to authentically bring in a range of elements of all their work to date, but also delivered new and unique styles.

One of the major themes of the album is ageing. Fittingly, stated from the get-go with opening ‘Young and Stupid’. A staple Belle & Sebastian track, with a hint of country, punching percussion and a chorus for lamenting the simplicity of youth:  “Everything is fine when you’re young and stupid”. Bittersweet and charming.

‘If They’re Shooting At You’, is so classically Belle and Sebastian, that it makes you nostalgic for early noughties sitcoms. Writing a while ago, but now even more poignant in the present-day events in Ukraine. Stuart Murdock claims, “Beauty always comes out in the end. It’s immortal, it’ll last forever. Maybe our art won't last forever, but art does last forever.”

Belle And Sebastian’s aesthetic is beauty in the ordinary. One of the first things that will come to your mind when you hear their name is the album artwork; normal people, normal situations, simplicity but charming. This is also one of the core themes in Murdock’s writing, and this can be seen explored in the fast-paced synth and keyboard laced ‘Talk To Me Talk To Me’.

The record oozes nostalgia and hides elements of albums of the past. ‘Unnecessary Drama’ gives you the same feeling of ‘Wrapped Up In Books’ but also, brings in outside influences like The The. ‘Come on Home’ is infectious and dramatic with the same beauty of ‘The Life Pursuit’. ‘A World Without You’ tapping on the sounds of 2009’s ‘Write About Love’. The album really brings the group's career together for something completely new.

The theme of ageing is not just about the old, but also about the new. The closing songs ‘Sea of Sorrow’, and ‘Deathbed of my Dreams’ show the band bringing fresh and unique styles to A Bit Of Previous. They are slower, evoking more emotion, almost ballad-like. The group however still chose to close the album on merrier emotions, ‘Working Boy In New York’, is one of the most charming moments, with a rhythm to make you sway and lyrics to make you smile.

The album is a treat for the group's long time devoted fans, but also a great place to start for those unfamiliar. While I’m in denial about ageing myself, I’m excited for the next decade of music with them.

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