Belle and Sebastian Belle and SebastianWrite About Love
After fourteen years putting good albums out on the market—since their debut “Tigermilk” (Electric Honey ,1996), specifically– there were about as many possibilities that Belle and Sebastian would release a bad album as that Celtic Football Club of Glasgow wouldgo down to the Scottish First Division. “Write about Love” is no exception. Although it is perhaps their most irregular one (a symptom of fatigue?), it has enough pearls and surprises (or don’t they ever lose their sensibility and desire to create?) to be considered a reason to increase their already-very-complete discography. Like each one of their LPs, it provides a new nuance, a new tone to their sound, to a colour—they know too well how to do things to go off on senseless adventures that would break up the naturalness of their music.
The undetermined nostalgia of Belle and Sebastian continues to be the perfect soundtrack for a picnic in the park, a furtive adventure raising a tartan skirt in a library with colonial furniture, the romantic dreaming of a student in the middle of a university class, who is a little cold and wraps her knit cardigan more tightly around her, the rain through the glass window of an old café: all of that aesthetic of missing a better adolescence, of missing a pop-folk that was perhaps better ( Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel) could only end up in an album called “Write about Love”, because in the end, that’s what they’ve been writing about for many years now.
The album starts off with “I Didn’t See It Coming”, which loses its harmony of a classic song in a final section that slides a disconcerting 80’s keyboard in among sentences as firm as “money creates the wheels and the world turns” sung in that tone somewhere between happy and sad, that rhythm somewhere between slow and fast, which is so habitual for the band. If the following “Come on Sister” awakens a bit of optimism and a little shoulder movement, “Calculating Bimbo” lowers the speed again immediately with an easy half-time. Next comes the most interesting section of the album, with an instant classic like “I Want the World to Stop”, the chorus of which was so necessary and simple that it sounds reinvented (with a certain air of Blondie), even more direct and catchy (although less brilliant) than previous band hits like “Another Sunny Day” or “I’m A Cuckoo”. Then come the well-appreciated collaborations on the album. First, in “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John”, B&S adapt their own particular rhythm to the bluesy voice of Norah Jones, in a song that slides along like a warm massage. The later contrast comes along with Carey Mulligan , the actress nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “An Education”. With her, B&S put out the most Motown song of their career, chosen to give its name to the album. “Write about love” appears as advice in the midst of the routine of a somewhat unhappy girl.
The notable “I’m Not Living in the Real World” and “The Ghost of Rockschool” maintain the album’s intensity, which is lowered with “Read the Blessed Pages”, a song where the flutes seem to be shoehorned in, and sound almost ridiculous. But the trumpets that adorn “I Can See Your Future” don’t sound that way, nor does the closing with “Sunday’s Pretty Icons”, which takes us back to the more electric, harder sound—if you can call it that—that B&S showed in their previous “The Life Pursuit” (2006). Another album, another delight from Belle and Sebastian, with Stuart Murdoch and Sarah Martin making their voices into the perfect caress to accompany a band that is able to perfectly arrange high-art instrumentation without losing the sensitivity to transmit from that tender simplicity that at times one doesn’t know whether to take to heart. Germán Aranda