- 06 May 22
Indie veterans deliver spry report from the frontline of middle age
Belle and Sebastian’s first album in seven years feels like both a recharging of batteries, but also a definitive final statement from an alternative institution. It is Belle and Sebastian being utterly Belle and Sebastian – and so it comes as no surprise to discover frontman Stuart Murdoch has indicated that it might very well be their final album.
But if this is the group taking their final bows, then it is an exit to cherish. A Bit Of Previous opens with the heartfelt, slightly crestfallen ‘Young and Stupid’. Murdoch, perpetually baby-faced in the group’s early days, is 53 now and understandably shocked to one day wake and find himself middle-aged. This is a dazed pain he vents in arresting fashion: “I was yelling in my sleep / I was crying feeling week / Do we have to feel this way? / wasn't like this yesterday”.
You could be forgiving for assuming the brace position in anticipation of Belle and Sebastian: the Midlife Crisis record. Nothing could be further from the case, as they plunge into lilting indie on ‘Talk To Me Talk To Me’ and harmonica-fuelled sturm und drang on ‘Unnecessary Drama’.
The biggest surprise is perhaps a foray into cold-wave funk on ‘Reclaim The Night’, a chilly bopper that harks all the way back to their synth classic ‘Electronic Renaissance’. It’s a link to the past to conjure shivers – and a reminder that, whatever the future holds, Belle and Sebastian’s place in the indie-pop hall of fame is assured.