The Life Pursuit

Studio Album by released in 2006
The Life Pursuit's tracklist:
Act of the Apostle
Another Sunny Day
White Collar Boy
The Blues Are Still Blue
Dress Up in You
Sukie in the Graveyard
We Are the Sleepyheads
Song for Sunshine
Funny Little Frog
To Be Myself Completely
Act of the Apostle II
For the Price of a Cup of Tea
Mornington Crescent

The Life Pursuit review

The Life Pursuit threatens to break the non-commercial record

A band that takes its name from a French children's television series about a boy and his dog would almost have to be precious, and to be certain, Belle & Sebastian are precious. But precious can be a damning word, and Belle & Sebastian don't have the negative qualities that the word connotes – they are private but not insular, pretty but not wimpy; they make gorgeous, delicate melodies sound full-bodied. Led by guitarist/vocalist Stuart Murdoch, the band has an intimate, majestic sound that is equal parts folk-rock and '60s pop, but Murdoch's gift for not only whimsy and surrealism, but also for odd, unsettling lyrical detail keeps the songs grounded in a tangible reality. Belle & Sebastian are one of those bands who enjoy a fair size cult of fairly laid-back arty types, who love their non-mainstream releases. Unfortunately for the cult, The Life Pursuit, their seventh album, threatens to break the non-commercial record. The mainstream has never been so tilted to the left, and Belle & Sebastian's previous twee approach has been gently left behind to produce an extremely consistent album. There’s blue-eyed soul and Northern soul to be found, not to mention chicken-scratch funk and jangly Cali-pop, horn sections, some wailing guitars, handclaps, beefy synths, distorted drums, and absolutely filthy bass lines.

Very different from anything Belle & Sebastian have done before

Dear Catastrophe Waitress marked a change for Belle & Sebastian as they drafted in pop impresario Trevor Horn to beef up their sound, producing their most confident record thus far. The Life Pursuit continues this trend, showcasing a band who are willing to flex their muscles. White Collar Boy goes with a real thump. The Blues Are Still Blue sounds like it was designed and built in about 1975, resurrecting the corpse of Mark Bolan. Then there is Song for Sunshine, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Super Furry Animals album with its dreamy and simple chorus, bongos and electronic tinged. Mornington Crescent is about the peculiar station on the Northern line, which has been described by Stuart Murdoch as ‘our song for London’, from a band who have avoided rushing straight to the capital. There are just enough of those diamond moments to make you jump up and down and swear that you’ve found the best pop band around. The giant sugar rush of Funny Little Frog or the muted trumpets on Dress Up In You just have to be treasured. The Life Pursuit is different enough to mark it as a real success and very different from anything they've done before. Whilst remaining unequivocally a Belle & Sebastian record, it's harder-edged and more exuberant – the band's new, almost glammed-up sound underpins frontman Stuart Murdoch's lyrics superbly. Murdoch's words themselves here also reach a maturity, wit, elegance and power not seen since the band's subversive masterpiece of the late 90s, The Boy With The Arab Strap.

Not a masterpiece but still very good

The Life Pursuit is judiciously sun-kissed with a production style that shimmers with optimism; the band hunkered down in Los Angeles with producer Tony Hoffer (responsible for some great albums in recent years, such as Beck’s Midnite Vultures and Supergrass’ self-titled release), who ensures that the album fits fashionably into its tight vintage duds. Originally intended as a double album with over twenty tracks, The Life Pursuit was whittled down to 13 economic songs. Their subtly sensitive cores remain, as does the pop sensibility (think The Smiths fronted by Art Garfunkel instead of Morrisey), but the overlaying of a wonderful 70s glam rock sharpens the edge and the energy somewhat. The spikiness of The Life Pursuit makes it the best way into Belle & Sebastian for someone who hasn't yet taken the plunge. It is not a masterpiece but it is still very good. One day this band will make a classic album, but in the meantime there’s plenty of fun to be had in the waiting.

(03.02.2006)
Rate review4.15
Total votes - 13


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