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Record review: Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance (2015, LP)

belle and sebastian girls

Belle and Sebastian have always been somewhat of a perplexing quantity. At times brilliant, horrifically twee and infuriatingly vague all in the space of one album, the Scottish sextet has generally always been critically acclaimed during their near 20-year history, but have never translated that into commercial success. Will this ninth record change their fortunes? The answer is probably not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fine effort nonetheless. Wonderfully slick and soulful opener ‘Nobody’s Empire’ recalls the best poppy parts of 1998 classic The Boy With The Arab Strap while dealing with some pretty dark lyrics about singer Stuart Murdoch’s struggles with chronic fatigue syndrome. ‘Allie’ veers a little too closely to being Beach Boys-lite before exploding into life, and lead single ‘The Party Line’ is a surprisingly groovy disco number that makes you want to dance like John Travolta circa 1977. It becomes clear that eclecticism is still very much part of the band, as the indie misery of ‘The Cat with the Cream’ bleeds into club banger ‘Enter Sylvia Plath’. It’s a mixed bag up to this point, but one that’s fun and engaging, although the quality tails off a little towards the end, with the exception of the faux-calypso duet with Dum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee Penny on ‘Play For Today’. Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your hats: Belle and Sebastian have relocated their mojo. (Matador)

For mX

Record review: Dum Dum Girls – Too True (2014, LP)


What began in 2008 as a bedroom musical project for Dum Dum Girls singer-songwriter Dee Dee Penny must surely now be regarded as a pretty big deal. This third album from the Los Angeles native’s group comes bursting at the seams with an exhaustive list of influences that sees the band’s sound further moving away from that found on 2010’s I Will Be and 2011’s Only In Dreams. Opener ‘Cult of Love’ comes out of the traps at pace, like some sort of nightclub-noire rockabilly Blondie, and is closely followed in a similar vein by ‘Evil Blooms’; a swirly, fuzzy, The Cure-esque number, and ‘Rimbaud Eyes’, which plunders the sound of Michael Stipe and R.E.M. at their darkest. Elsewhere ‘In The Wake Of You’ gets punchy and lo-fi, ‘Lost Boys and Girls Club’ reeks of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and closer ‘Trouble Is My Name’ comes off like a gloomy yet laid-back Siouxsie Sioux. While some of the Dum Dum Girls’ earlier work could be called scuzzy, the production here is spot on; big where it needs to be, and restrained when it should be. In saying that, there’s a definite ’80s feel running throughout the album, and while to some that might sound like an insult, in this case it’s a compliment. Penny takes influences from only the best of that much-maligned musical decade – from New Wave, college rock, and most of the better indie-pop, and combines them with her trademark pop hooks to make a record that’s as catchy as it is charming. (Sub Pop)