The world needs a band that can mimic the sound of corny 70’s era Europop, and isn’t afraid of fingersnaps or gallopy-horse sound effects. The world also needs a sensitive yet witty songwriter who loves English folk music and listens to The Smiths too much. That group is Belle & Sebastian, that songwriter is Stuart Murdoch, and they’ve made their career as the millennial incarnation of twee-pop. That made-up genre title smacks of our culture’s tendency to mock anything that isn’t sweating aggression, but it’s also descriptive of a certain aesthetic type. You know, the self-consciously anti-aggressive too-smart-for-the-mainstream types who wear cardigans and Wellies even when they’re not in the north of England. You’d call them hipsters except that that’s how they really are and they can’t ever be any other way. You (we) know who you (we) are.
I thought I’d put it out there that Belle & Sebastian have other albums besides Girls in Peacetime. I’ve been a bit obsessed with that record, but I realize that it was actually a stylistic break for them, a conscious attempt to be trendier. Their earlier work has a very different vibe, less on-trend indie pop and more bedsitter/shoegazer/soft-emo. It’s music for clever kids who grew up reading foreign literature and don’t go out much. If I have to stoop to sounds-like territory I would say this has a vibe reminiscent of The Smiths in their quieter moments (with whom Stuart Murdoch shares a love for very verbose song titles) and Donovan (with whom Stuart Murdoch shares a Scottish accent.) In other words, charmingly literate and slightly twee but with a lot of heart.
Yes, this record again. I just keep playing it. I have to say that I’ve never paid much attention to the lyrics of this song before, but that’s where unasked-for lyric videos come in. You’ll find that it has a little bit more depth than the glowing melodies would suggest. Of course, Belle & Sebastian cornered the market on bookish romanticism a while back, with their penchant for wordy, Morrissey-esque album titles. This isn’t quite master level, but it’s not quite your garden variety I-Love-You pop either. The slight touch of doom pushes it over the edge. Love just means more when the world is threatening to burn; it’s a refute to the wordy title.