Album: Belle and Sebastian <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

The Life Pursuit, ROUGH TRADE
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The Independent Culture

With the Trevor Horn-produced Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle and Sebastian overturned their reputation as winsome indie underachievers, suggesting ambitions outside their cosy coterie of fans. Sadly, The Life Pursuit merely asks what those goals might be. It's not a bad album, just a puzzling, unfocused one, on which the band's characteristic diffidence seems more than usually out of kilter with the cheesy glam-rock stomps ("White Collar Boy", "Sukie in the Graveyard") and slipshod disco beats ("We Are the Sleepyheads") that are used to deliver it. Likewise, when they pastiche Sly & The Family Stone with the burbling clarinet and vocal delivery of "Song For Sunshine", you simply long to hear Sly himself instead. Stuart Murdoch can still uncoil a switchback narrative of Morrissey-esque slyness, depicting creepy characters like the launderette layabout in "The Blues Are Still Blue", the religious fantasist in "Act of the Apostle" and the obsessive fan in an imaginary relationship with a celebrity in "Funny Little Frog", but the album as a whole is oddly fraught, as if he were struggling to make them fit into their new, muscular settings.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Another Sunny Day', 'Act of the Apostle'