Author Topic: The Life Pursuit  (Read 924 times)


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The Life Pursuit
« on: February 03, 2006, 10:59:00 am »
Middling review from the Guardian

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Re: The Life Pursuit
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2006, 10:13:00 am »
Entertainment Weekly likes it
 Stuart Murdoch is the type of songwriter whose scribbled couplets on tea-stained napkins contain a wit and pathos our own most labored efforts never do. He and his Scottish seven-piece Belle and Sebastian ?? now on their seventh album ?? have crafted a work more elastic and ebullient than their '90s releases. And though The Life Pursuit lacks some early favorites' gorgeous melancholy, jaunty anthems like ''Another Sunny Day'' and ''The Blues Are Still Blue'' make up the difference, danceably. Grade: A-

Re: The Life Pursuit
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2006, 10:19:00 am »
Pitchdork: 8.5
 Popsmatters: 7


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Re: The Life Pursuit
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2006, 12:45:00 pm »
February 2, 2006
 Critic's Notebook
 A Quiet Band Worth Fighting Loudly About Makes Some More Noise
 By KELEFA SANNEH, The New York Times
 Not long ago a query arrived, urgent and unexpected, via cellphone. The caller had made a bet, and the matter was to be settled through an unscientific poll. The question, shouted over a lively din: Which was better ?? the second Belle and Sebastian album, "If You're Feeling Sinister," or the third one, "The Boy With the Arab Strap"?
 Now, if you received a call like this late at night, out of the blue, you too might have found it a bit odd. A bit odd, that is, because absolutely everyone knows that "If You're Feeling Sinister" is the band's masterpiece.
 For many years, the Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian has been a quiet, wee group adored by a loud, not-so-wee cult of fans. Not just loud: contentious, too. Loving Belle and Sebastian meant loving Stuart Murdoch's murmured tales of disappointment and transcendence. But it also meant reviling the band's lesser songs and lesser albums and even, sometimes, its lesser members. It meant arguing.
 On Tuesday, Belle and Sebastian releases a new album, "The Life Pursuit" (Matador), which includes some of the best songs in the band's catalog, along with a few that clearly don't reach that high standard. The album includes what is, by some measures, the band's most popular song yet: "Funny Little Frog," the first single, which entered the British charts at No. 13. Over a swinging bass line and some bright keyboards, Mr. Murdoch evokes a love unrequited and quite possibly unacknowledged. "You are my girl and you don't even know it," he sings, and he finds a rhyme: "You're the funny little frog in my thro-at."
 "The Life Pursuit" is good enough that it will persuade a few fans to claim it's the best one yet. (Although it's not good enough to make them right.) But among most cult members, it isn't likely to inspire quite as much outrage or obsession as its predecessors. Could it be that these days Belle and Sebastian is more fun to hear than to debate?
 The band's story begins with a limited-edition 1996 album called "Tigermilk." The album, now available on CD from Matador, includes a biographical essay that begins like a fairy tale: "Sebastian met Isabelle outside the Hillhead Underground Station, in Glasgow."
 Those names, Sebastian and Belle, came from a French novel about a boy and his dog. But listeners were free to imagine that Mr. Murdoch was Sebastian, and that the band's other main singer, Isobel Campbell, was Belle. Myth and mystery were part of the group's appeal. The members declined interviews, declined to include singles on their albums, declined to print songwriting credits. And they made lovely and sometimes perfect music: fragile songs hung on sturdy melodies; lyrics streaked with love and spite. In "Judy and the Dream of Horses," Mr. Murdoch sang, "Judy, let's go for a walk/ We can kiss and do whatever you want/ But you will be disappointed." Better, maybe, for girls and boys, bands and fans, to keep their distance.
 Years later, after a rather uninspired fourth album, "Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant," the group abandoned its own mythology. Ms. Campbell, the mythical Belle, left the group. (Her new album, a collaboration with the former Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan, is to be released in America on March 7.) The members recorded a score for the Todd Solondz film "Storytelling." Even more surprising ?? and much more fruitful ?? was the 2003 album "Dear Catastrophe Waitress," a triumphant and unexpected collaboration with the mainstream pop producer Trevor Horn. That CD began with a chirpy, mildly smutty song about a workplace affair, or a daydream of one, "Step Into My Office, Baby." And it featured a glorious, giddy single, "I'm a Cuckoo."
 In 2004 the band issued a chatty DVD, "Fans Only"; "Just a Modern Rock Story," the authorized biography, was published last year. Listeners with questions could write to, where they would receive friendly answers, though not always informative ones. In the lyric booklet for "The Life Pursuit," the usual essay by Mr. Murdoch has been replaced by a selection of these questions and answers. And instead of shunning the British magazine NME as he had in the past, Mr. Murdoch contributed a guide to the new album; he describes one song as "kind of ramshackle" and admits that another was inspired by the long-running hard-rock band Status Quo. This band has thoroughly demystified itself.
 Yet it scarcely matters. Mr. Murdoch has managed to turn himself inside out without really changing at all. That Status Quo-influenced song, "White Collar Boy," is tougher and heavier than anything the band was doing in 1996, and it tells a lurid story of crime and seduction and punishment. But there's a familiar whistleable melody under those greasy guitars, and the protagonist is familiar, too: he's a Belle and Sebastian stock character, hopeful but feckless. As the law closes in, he tells his female accomplice, "Baby, you're special but there's something not quite right," and a choir swiftly upbraids him: "She's a Venus in flares/ And you wanna split hairs?"
 Elsewhere, Mr. Murdoch is up to his usual tricks. "Another Sunny Day" is pure sunshine misery: a gentle song so euphoric that you can hear the depressing ending before it comes. And the album's best song, "Dress Up in You," is classic, old-fashioned Belle and Sebastian. It tells a quiet, petulant little story about two women, a "star" and a "loser," rivals who can't quite bring themselves to hate each other:
 You got lucky, you ain't talking to me now
 Little Miss Plucky, pluck your eyebrows for the crowd
 Get on the airplane
 You give me stomach pain
 I wish that you were here, we would have had a lot to talk about.
 A decade ago, Mr. Murdoch was a fledgling singer and a veteran fan ?? a loser, perhaps ?? obsessed with the ultra-cultish post-punk band Felt. (Of whom he recently wrote: "I can't believe this band ever existed. They're so perfect.") Since then, he seems to have realized that loving a cult hero is a lot more glamorous than the workaday experience of actually being one.
 Maybe he's teaching his fans to grow up, too. It's all right to chuckle when the band rips through the double-time indie-soul song "We Are the Sleepyheads." You can learn to suffer through a dud (like "To Be Myself Completely") without suffering stomach pain. And if you listen again, you may even understand why some people prefer "The Boy With the Arab Strap" to "If You're Feeling Sinister." Doomed romance is the group's great theme, but on this album you can hear something less idealistic, more durable. It's a hopeful possibility, but a bittersweet one: maybe it's possible to love this band a little less, and a little longer.


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Re: The Life Pursuit
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2006, 01:18:00 pm »
From what I've listened to so far, it's a great record. A couple of songs that aren't so great, I agree, but I still think Sinister isn't a perfect record. The live version is the one that I can really sit through from start to finish. Should be a couple of great shows.