The Life Pursuit

The Scottish group has always been known for their quirky pop sensibilities, and the new album is a fine example of their style. Belle & Sebastian's approach amounts to a compendium of pop-rock styles from the 1960s, merged in a manner that manages to sound fresh.

Formed is Glasgow in 1996, the band has released about six albums prior to The Life Pursuit. Their last album, 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, was their first after losing some key band members, and just as the success of that release demonstrated that it could survive internal changes, The Life Pursuit demonstrates that Dear Catastrophe Waitress was no happenstance.

The group's music generally falls somewhere between the pop symphonies of Brian Wilson and the Beatley folk-rock of later-era XTC, although the new album sees them leaning occasionally into '70s R&B influences. For example, "Song for Sunshine" features keyboards straight out of a Stevie Wonder track, merged with a chorus leaning towards '60s pop group The Association.

Many of the lyrics are brief slices-of-life of people in turmoil. "Acts of the Apostle" shows a boarding school girl pondering life during morning prayers, while The Kinksesque tune "The White Collar Boy" features the lad of the title dragged into running from the law by a bewitching blue collar girl.

But it's the playful music that is Belle & Sebastian's ace in the hole. "For the Price of a Cup of Tea" is a rousing confection with delightful vocal harmonies and a brightly funky guitar rhythm. "Sukie in the Graveyard" is powered by a fast, swirling organ. And album closer "Mornington Crescent" verges on atmospheric country rock.

The Life Pursuit is clearly ideal for any fan of fun '60s pop. Belle & Sebastian keeps the tradition alive while adding several new buds of their own on its branches.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director