Belle and Sebastian - "The Life Pursuit" Retrospective Review
Updated: 4 days ago
Although by no means rare, it is certainly uncommon for a band to put out such a good album their seventh time around. In what I would say their second strongest album behind the iconic 90's record If You're Feeling Sinister, Belle & Sebastian's The Life Pursuit has become a staple of indie pop/rock of the 2000's and has their most developed sound yet. While still holding somewhat close to the innocent twee charm of the 90's, the group is not afraid to feature songs which are made to be played in large concert halls to thousands of screaming fans. The tracks on this record are their strongest in their live sets and showcase the positive energy British invasion pop sounds of the 1960's mixed with Belle and Sebastian's most technical and melodic guitar and bass playing. A true gem released during a year filled with strong indie records (The Kooks - Inside In/Inside Out, Cold War Kids - Robbers and Cowards, Dirty Pretty Things - Waterloo to Anywhere, and The Decemberists - The Crane Wife)
The first half of the album is filled with true indie gold including the iconic indie rock track Another Sunny Day representing the nostalgic lyrical writing of Stuart Murdoch. Beautiful poetic writing in lines such as "eskimo's remove obstructions with tongues," and "the Lovin is a mess, what happened to all of the feeling?" Lines which can reminisce of lovers past and fairytale stories which died out with time. Paired with a catchy guitar lick which expanded into a timeless guitar solo, this track alone could make this album the staple it has become. The Blues Are Still Blue, finds itself with Belle and Sebastian's best chorus, and cheeky British lyrics. The only complaint to be found in this song is they could have repeated the catchy chorus a couple more times before taking us all into Dress Up in You, another song which takes the listener back to days of love which did not go to plan.
The ensemble of misfits took on a whole new funky sound out of left field with the next track on the album Sukie in the Graveyard, a track written from inspiration from a bohemian girl Murdoch knew in San Fransisco. Play that track on some high-end speakers, and the bass line will knock your socks off, sincerely one of the grooviest bass lines of ANY indie rock track to date. The funky sound comes back in the breakdown at the end of Song for Sunshine, a nice b-side track for those who listen to the full album. The group ends the stellar record with the graceful track Mornington Crescent, named after the station in the London Underground again featuring the poetic lyrical writing of Murdoch. The most elegant and melodic guitar solo of the Belle and Sebastian discography is played on this track before being incorporated into a guitar-piano duet before the third verse. The beautiful soft guitar picking of the solo takes the listener back to earlier tracks such as Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying, or even She's Losing It.
The Life Pursuit is not quite the 10/10 that If You're Feeling Sinister was due to some timing issues on Mornington Crescent when the piano comes in during the breakdown before the third verse which as a musician and listener, I cannot find myself to overlook. It also seems as if the song writing and singing of Stevie Jackson got a tad weaker over time (which can especially be heard in the goofy sounding I'm Not Living in the Real World on their later album Write About Love). Some nice instrumentation and enough British charm still make's Jackson's To Be Myself Completely a catchy enough song worth adding to your playlists.
Stellar, and timeless album. A handful of these tracks are still played on AAA radio rightfully so, and the rest of the tracks will bring back fond and timeless memories of all of the innocence and naiveness which came with being a millennial indie kid.