Album Review: A Bit of Previous by Belle and Sebastian
Very Good, Based on 6 Critics
musicOMH.com - 80 Based on rating 4
Seven years since their last ‘official’ album comes this warm, comforting return from a band who do what they do extremely well It’s been seven years since the last ‘official’ Belle and Sebastian album (if you discount the EP collection How To Solve Our Human Problems, a live record and the soundtrack to Simon Bird’s film Days Of The Bagnold Summer), and within just a few seconds of opening track Young And Stupid, it feels like they’ve never been away. A Bit Of Previous is an aptly named title for the band’s ninth studio album. Due to the pandemic, plans to record the record in California were shelved, and for the first time since 199, the entire band assembled in Glasgow for the recording sessions.
Belle and Sebastian's first album recorded in its native Glasgow in over 20 years, A Bit of Previous demonstrates the group's devotion to its roots. In this respect, the group's 10th studio album feels both like a step forward and a welcome retrospective of the Scottish indie pop outfit's earlier output, continuing its eclectic genre explorations and warm retro-inspired pop stylings. Still, one cannot help but feel that A Bit of Previous somehow falls short of its antecedents, swapping the solid composure and class of If You're Feeling Sinister and Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance for a far cozier, though not necessarily evolved sound.
With an overtly backwards-gazing title like A Bit of Previous, it shouldn't be any surprise that Scottish indie pop vets Belle and Sebastian sound best when revisiting past glories. The band's latest album -- which is somewhere between their ninth and their twelfth, depending on if you count soundtracks and EP trilogies -- is a product of the pandemic, as lockdowns meant that the group had to abandon plans to record in California. They ended up self-producing in Glasgow, recording at home for the first time in over 20 years, and perhaps that's why it sounds so comfortable and cozy.
Opener "Young and Stupid" is perfectly un-showy, its mid-tempo acoustic bounce providing the backdrop for a gorgeously wimpy violin and a spoken word outro.
Album single "Unnecessary Drama" promises a fresh take on the band's classic sound. The blaring guitar, piercing harmonica and punchy lyrics are addictively brilliant: "This is my life / this is my so-called life." However, the prized feature of this track is not the lyrical story but rather the impressively bold guitar hooks that boisterously embellish the song and propel it into a fiery and utterly addictive sound. It's a track that doesn't necessarily fit the usual Belle And Sebastian mould, but will nonetheless suck you in.
Indie pop icons Belle and Sebastian have returned with their ninth studio album 'A Bit Of Previous'. The Glaswegian seven-piece had left fans eagerly awaiting new music, after seven years working primarily on side projects, such as 2020 endeavour 'Protecting the Hive', an audio-visual piece showcasing an aerial view of Glasgow, deserted during the first two weeks of the COVID lockdown. It would be fair to assume that 'A Bit Of Previous' was a project born out of the pandemic, but more than anything, this record feels like a homecoming and a moment of reflection.
Long after they seemed to emerge from school textbooks' margins, Stuart Murdoch's literate pop vets Belle And Sebastan have proven gracefully adept at navigating midlife regrets and resolve. Recorded in their native Glasgow, the group's first studio album since 2015 leans into core band virtues to find fortitude before time's passage. Between vibrant melodies and worry-lashed lyrics, Previous looks to companionship and melody as bulwarks, from Talk To Me Talk To Me's "ecstasy of company" to Come On Home's buoyant spritz and A World Without You's show of constancy.