Belle and Sebastian: How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 2 – soft and sweet in the middle

Fri, Jan 19, 2018, 05:00


How to Solve Our Human Problems - Part 2

Belle and Sebastian

Matador Records


In one sly joke from the sitcom Community, a young woman attempts to narrow down her older boyfriend’s age: “Thirty-something, I’m assuming. He has a landline and uses the word ‘album’.”

It’s a line to make Belle and Sebastian shiver. Glasgow’s elder statesmen of bittersweet indie pop have become steadily more accessible only to find that, in this endless era of streaming, access isn’t the problem. Stuart Murdoch’s answer has been to return to EPs, planning a suite of three, delivering music in a steady pulse rather than with a heavy thud.

That suits the suppleness of the band, alternating their singing here in a melodic relay. They flit between playground chant and propulsive psychedelia on exhilarating opener Show Me the Sun, Murdoch’s lyrics landing somewhere between evangelical jabber and detailed acid trip. Sarah Martin fronts a charming, charging Same Star, a song of romantic insistence. But when the collection pivots around I’ll Be Your Pilot, an easy-listening meander so relentlessly pleasant it feels like a prank, the project feels shapeless. Maybe that’s the point. The squelch and squeal of the Stevie Jackson-led Cornflakes or the yawning woodwinds and wry, curling lyrics of A Plague on Other Boys may be notes towards something significant, when Part 3 is released next month, or just humble offerings to our wilderness of playlists.