After a four-year hiatus since 2006’s The Life Pursuit, Belle & Sebastian reconvened in February 2010, quickly creating Write About Love. But the seven-piece group jumped too quickly into recording, releasing the album just eight months later. While fans could have predicted the same catchy, upbeat rhythms and Brit-pop sounds off of The Life Pursuit and 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Write About Love is missing something: progress. Almost every song off of Write About Love has been heard before and done better on previous albums.
See, it’s important to understand Belle & Sebastian history. Their first album, 1996’s Tigermilk, and the four albums after that can all be grouped in the same sort of genre, filled with melancholy but intimate tracks, like “The Boy With the Arab Strap,” and always with a subtle touch of wit, like “She’s Losing It.” Later, they emphasized this wit with Dear Catastrophe Waitress, offering a new side to the band as they explored their creative ambition. They proved they had so much hidden beneath their Scottish sleeves, especially with the shiny adventure of The Life Pursuit. Yet this ambition did not continue to rise.
Write About Love is still a good album for any listener. It has poppy melodies, especially on songs like “Come on Sister” and “I Want the World to Stop,” which are definite toe-tappers. “Sunday’s Pretty Icons” reflects on their older material on a lighter note, being equally as catchy and fun. But, it’s completely missing that “wow” factor.
One huge downfall to the album is the appearance of Norah Jones on “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John.” It’s that rainy day kind of song Jones loves to sing, but its dreariness drags more into a “did I really just step in a puddle?” versus “I want to stay in bed and listen to music.” It’s four and a half minutes worth skipping.
One thing that always comes as a shocker is their ever not-so-subtle love of God, specifically in “The Ghost of Rockschool:” “I’ve seen God in the sun / I’ve seen God in the street / God before bed and the promise of sleep / God in my dreams.” The song isn’t even that bad, but sometimes one can forget their emphasis on the one above and it can be quite uncomfortable when you’re singing it.
Like previous albums, main songwriter Stuart Murdoch continues to complain about working the nine to five in the title track, “I hate my job/ I’m working way too much/ (every day I’m stuck in an office),” which is basically a poorly executed version of “Step Into My Office, Baby” off of Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
What was the point of the album? They should have spent their time focusing on providing a comeback, with brand new material. They needed to present their next stage because even though their true fans will always love them, they won’t always be there if the band doesn’t strive to make improvements.
This album is a fun listen, but nothing more than that. It doesn’t express anything new or show hope for something different in future albums. Hopefully Belle & Sebastian will steer off their current path and remind fans why they were loved in the first place.