Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love

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I was initially disappointed with Belle & Sebastian’s Write About Love, but after repeated listening, I found much to like.  B&S have routinely assembled a wide variety of instruments to orchestrate songs that sound similar to all those 60’s pop songs that filled the radio but never made a splash. It’s reminiscent, tuneful, jangly stuff. But, after having achieved a state of “liking it better,” I started liking it less.

Why? Foremost is the disappointment of the band not picking up where they left off from 2006’s splendid The Life Pursuit, which finally saw the band put some step into their tunes after years of a narrow diet of aural cotton candy.  The layover, alas, was too great to sustain what seemed to be a new enthusiasm at the time. 

Secondly, the lyrics rarely excel.  Lead songwriter and singer Stuart Murdoch, now 42, remains somehow preoccupied with school age trials between boys and girls.  As the CD title suggests, there is a continuing theme of romance, and Murdoch’s voice remains perfect for it.  But the lyrics are often obtuse, and the disk is lacking in his trademark metaphors and pensive humor.  A master at creating characters to play roles within his songs, aging would suggest a transition to more adult observations of life.

He’s clearly capable.  The liner notes include some philosophical musings that could be translated to song, such as:

In moments of quiet I feel a sort of maturing.  I’m mature enough to realise that life is racing away, that it’s going to run out too soon, and that there’s nothing I can do about it except live now and contemplate later. And that’s gong to involve a degree of discomfort.


There’s a difference between what you want to do and what you have to do…

What you want to do is an illusion.  What you have to do is heavenly. Heavenly purpose, and therefore blessed…

What I want to do is… all over the place.  It comes thick and fast – as ideas, desire, and daydreams.  It’s inspired by lust, by pride, and by a false sense of entitlement.

But then want turns to must… it’s a fine line sometimes; it’s probably happened to you already today.  A fork in your own metaphysical road in which you are aware of the two choices.  You hesitate and listen for a small voice to whisper in your ear…"

The only hint of that is one of the more subtle songs musically, “The Ghost of Rockschool.”

I’ve seen God in the sun, I’ve seen God in the street / God before bed and the promise of sleep / God in the puddles and the lady’s sad eyes / I’ve seen God shining up from her reflection

But that’s not the focus here; writing about love is.

Love is like a novel / Read the blessed pages / Did I do my best dear / That is all you ask

All the songs here are listenable.  Sarah Martin sings on two of the better entries, “I Didn’t See it Coming” and “I Can See Your Future.”  Murdoch pens a strong lyric with “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John,” but the surprise inclusion of Norah Jones on the one hand emphasizes how thin Murdoch’s voice is, and on the other changes the CD’s tone.  I like the song; it’s just misplaced here.  “I Want the World to Stop” is catchy, but lyrically fails to anchor.  “I’m Not Living in the Real World” is decent, but it tends towards the frenetic amongst the pop sensibilities of the remainder.

And how does it sound now?  I like it “okay.”  This isn’t my “go to” Belle and Sebastian album, but it has its moments.

Recommended Songs: “Come on Sister,” “Write About Love,” “I Didn’t See it Coming”

3 of 5 STARS



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