The Life Pursuit
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|1. ACT OF THE APOSTLE|
|2. ANOTHER SUNNY DAY|
|3. WHITE COLLAR BOY|
|4. THE BLUES ARE STILL BLUE|
|5. DRESS UP IN YOU|
|6. SUKIE IN THE GRAVEYARD|
|7. WE ARE THE SLEEPYHEADS|
|8. SONG FOR SUNSHINE|
|9. FUNNY LITTLE FROG|
|10. TO BE MYSELF COMPLETELY|
|11. ACT OF THE APOSTLE II|
|12. FOR THE PRICE OF A CUP OF TEA|
|13. MORNINGTON CRESCENT|
Written almost entirely by frontman Stuart Murdoch, Belle And Sebastian's sixth album is a magnificently assured and diverse pop record. With nods to such influences as Cornelius, Manfred Mann, and David Bowie, The Life Pursuit mingles the folky, be-sweatered pathos of the group's earliest work with joyfully satirical late 60's sunshine pop, and the sophisticated 80's-influenced work reminiscent of their prior album, 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress. This limited deluxe CD comes with a six-song live DVD in special hardbound book packaging. Matador. 2006.
Oh to be free and frivolous, like Stuart Murdoch and his extensive cast of players as they engage The Life Pursuit. There's no "Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It" or "Get Me Away from Here, Im Dying" on this disc. Life has gotten easier, it seems, since Belle and Sebastian's early days. To boot, since 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, the Belle cast has indulged a more 70s-era set of influences: Isn't that Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" beat on the funny "White Collar Boy," a near sequel to "Step Into My Office, Baby"? And how about the T-Rex touch on the opening of "The Blues Are Still Blue"? No worries, Belle and Sebastian retain their gleam flawlessly. A jaunty lift is still in their step, a carefree abandon that charms even as it also reaches to the 70s for the funk-meets-psychedelia, "Song for Sunshine." It's bright and breezy throughout (the titles tell some of the story: "Another Sunny Day" and "Funny Little Frog"), with memorably decorous, familiar bouncing rhythms marking much of t he album. The downtone "Dress Up in You" and "Mornington Crescent" are spare and lovely, wide-open in their pacing. All the same, "For the Price of a Cup of Tea," almost triggers a sing-along with just its name. --Andrew Bartlett --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The songs themselves are more overtly seventies rock-and-pop (and funk), with "The Blues are Still Blue" probably being the high point. Of course, several cuts are very reminiscent of old Belle & Sebsatian ("Dress Up in You," "Funny Little Frog," "Another Sunny Day" -- though "Frog" is steeped in rocking piano accents and hip, poppy guitar lines). You will be disappointed if you're only looking for something akin to "Sinister" or "Fold Your Hands," however.
The DVD in this limited edition package is a bit of a surprise, considering the current price on amazon is only a little more over the standard, comparatively average CD set. Six songs from the album are performed live, rather well, with Stuart Murdoch (the imitable and quite lovely band leader) showing some serious charm. I think I might be even more in love with him than I was before. (The songs are "Another Sunny Day," "Dress Up in You," "To Be Myself Completely," "Mornington Crescent," "Funny Little Frog," and "White Collar Boy.")
The packaging is exactly like the deluxe version of "Push Barman": hardcover mini-book, except way more pictures and linear notes. A lot of the Q&A from the band's official website is in here, which at first I found unimpressive, but I'm fine with it now. Richard's answers to most everything are hilarious, and the very notion of putting such a thing in the linear notes shows how well connected B&S is to its fans.
Surely worth the purchase for anyone who loves the band. It doesn't particularly matter if you're a casual fan or not -- the deluxe version honestly isn't much more than the regular one, and the music is catchy and friendly enough to guarantee new fans. Highly recommended.
If you have the 2003 "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" disc (or the harder-to-find "Books" single from the following year) the new direction of B&S probably won't be much of a shock for you. It's not that the band has "turned their back" on what got them the devoted cult following they earned with more laid-back releases like "Tigermilk" or "If You're Feeling Sinister", but simply that they've opened their musical pallette to include Seventies glam and pomp (well, their versions of the two). And the combination is infectious if you let it in.
Sure, fans of their more acoustic material will feel betrayed, and I can sympathize with them if they feel Stuart Murdoch and the band are forgetting their roots. But it's senseless to hold Belle and Sebastian to a fixed style, when there have been hints of this kind of musical direction in previous releases (anyone recall "Electronic Renaissance"'s odd position on the Tigermilk record?). What's more, like any good artists the group brings something unexpected and new to the styles they've embraced.
That's called true artistry, folks. If the record wasn't half as enjoyable as it is, you might have a point.
But songs like "The Blues are Still Blue", "We are The Sleeyheads", "Funny Little Frog", and "White Collar Boy" are immensely likable on repeat listens, and the gems that emerge like "Mornington Crescent" and "Act of the Apostles (Parts I and II)" roll around in your head long after you've removed the disc from your CD player (which won't be for a while, of course). This is good music from a great band who continue to defy the expectations that were placed upon them a decade ago and still retain that special something which makes them a force to be reckoned with.
So pick up "The Life Pursuit" and enjoy listening to it on repeat, as there isn't a bad track on the entire disc. Rock music rarely gets this enjoyable or listenable these days, so treasures like "Pursuit" should be acknowledged. Otherwise, it's just the same old crap but with a different album cover. And that's the artistic kiss of death.
BTW the bonus DVD is excellent too. Stuart is turning into a sex god (of sorts), swiveling his hips like a Scottish Tom Jones.
All that talk seems to be rubbish to me.
The band has always had their own sound, and they still do. The writing on this album is brilliant - both musically and lyrically. There are so many great songs - "Act of the Apostle," "Another Sunny Day," "White Collar Boy," "Funny Little Frog," "Mornington Crescent" - I could go on. The musicianship and production values are better than ever.
It's true, B&S have left their lo-fi sound behind. Have Stuart Murdoch & Co. forsaken their roots, or does each album bring them closer to realizing their original vision? Or does that vision continue to grow and take shape with each new album? Only they know for sure, but it doesn't really matter. It's all great stuff. Press "play" and enjoy it.
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