Belle and Sebastian
The Life Pursuit
“Sukie was a kid, she liked to hangout in the graveyard/ She did brass rubbings, she learned you never had to press hard.”
The bass flares up. The organ purrs. The cymbals smash. And Stuart Murdoch is joined by an army of “ooo-bah-bah”s. It’s one of those moments where you forget to breathe for a second – so begins Belle and Sebastian’s “Sukie in the Graveyard.” Involuntary head bopping ensues and an immediate enduring love for the album develops right off the bat. The Life Pursuit is brilliant. “Sukie in the Graveyard” is a testimony to this brilliance all on its own, but an album this good can’t be represented by just one song.
The first track, “Act of the Apostle,” serves as a transition from the old to the new. From its conclusion to the intro of “Another Sunny Day,” there is a crossover from the melancholy twee of previous releases to the full-fledged pop of Pursuit. A short instrumental bridge with a simple, but unexpected guitar solo leads to a powerfully instrumented second half with a beautiful breakdown and perfect back-up vocals.
“White Collar Boy” solidifies the transition between the two musically defined parts of the album. Synths, cymbals, space-age guitar and hand claps accompany the story of a man running from the law with his hard-nosed female accomplice. Within this very song exists the greatest moment of music in this young year (you’ll know it when you hear it) and definitively turns a page in the story of Belle and Sebastian.
Instant classic after instant classic follow one another like catchy lemmings. With its lyrical wit centered around school days, strange and unrequited love, and religion, Pursuit is trademark Belle and Sebastian. Musically, they depart from their signature style and dive into several new styles and genres. From folk to funk, it’s all brilliantly executed.
Albums that are great from start to finish are few and far between. In the independent scene as well as the mainstream stage, an album either blends together and songs are forgotten or a few gems are buried in a pile of mediocre dirt. The Life Pursuit is the first great album of 2006. Not only is it good because it’s something different for the established group, but also because it’s something truly great for both big fans and virgin listeners. The Life Pursuit has launched Belle and Sebastian out of the underground cult level and into mainstream commercial success, elevating the deserving band to the UK Top Ten. The United States tends to be a little slower to warm up to acts like Belle and Sebastian. However, this particular album will undoubtedly accumulate popularity as the year goes on. Belle and Sebastian prove with The Life Pursuit that there are always limits to surpass and another realm of greatness to enter.