Tag Archives: Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian: Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

19 Dec

With Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, Belle and Sebastian take a pointed step towards having noticeable bass and drum layers, although sadly it is not a big one: the pair of black platform shoes this wispy, pastel-coloured band has put on is not quite enough to quell the sense that the music is floating away.

Opening track “Nobody’s Empire” exemplifies this perfectly: its driving bass drum beat is emotive, but simultaneously disappointing for how rousing it could be with just a slight shift in mixing (I’ve tried boosting the bass on my end, to little avail).

It’s a particular pity, because “Nobody’s Empire” is one of B&S’s rawest, realest songs to date. The lyrics relate Murdoch’s battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, couched in poignantly optimistic melody with rallying choral backing.

The album at large (not for the first time in B&S’s discography) makes some poetic and important statements about mental illness, for example in “Play for Today”:

She’s got a friend
An ugly monster that will eat your face
She hides a crime
A hefty catalog of wasted time
She’s got a friend
A lonely monster that will prey on you

Yet it is “Allie” that more potently encapsulates undercurrents in Belle and Sebastian that make me uneasy with this album as a whole:

When there’s bombs in the middle east, you want to hurt yourself
When there’s knives in the city streets, you want to end yourself
When there’s fun in your mother’s house, you want to cry yourself to sleep

This channeling of vague (or at least vaguely-communicated) awareness of others’ unknown hardships back into one’s own, more privileged, pain, is similarly reflected in the decision to feature visual references to armed conflict in the album’s cover art.

girls in peacetime want to dance

Frankly, I’m getting tired of white indie bands (from white-led countries, no less) appropriating experiences that are not their own to add edge to their self-expression or flair to a love song.

For these reasons I won’t stand behind Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance as one of this year’s great indie albums, even if it does have some captivating tracks.