The thing I love (and some people hate) about Belle & Sebastian is that you never know what to expect. This isn't a band that simply rehashes the same songs over and over and that takes tremendous courage in this trend-mongering age. The Life Pursuit is no different and Stuart Murdoch may just be the closest thing this generation has to Brian Wilson.
Like any Belle & Sebastian album, this one takes a few spins to really get into. But once it gets under your skin it takes a firm grasp and doesn't let go. The CD gets off to a good start with the airy and free floating "Act Of The Apostle" and leads perfectly into the semi alt-country "Another Sunny Day". "White Collar Boy" is pure pop gold with a bit of a T-Rex undertone to the beat.
Murdoch's untraditional writing style is ever present in tracks like "The Blues Are Still Blue," "Dress Up In You," and "Sukie In The Graveyard". "Sukie" is perhaps the most amusing song here but "Funny Little Frog" comes in a close second.
The real standouts for me were "We Are The Sleepyheads" and "To Be Myself Completely" both seem to channel the best of the 60s Brit pop. Where "Song For Sunshine" takes you on a trip to the groovy 70s. "For The Price Of A Cup Of Tea" could just as easily be on a Ziggy Stardust era Bowie album. What sets Belle & Sebastian apart from other bands that are "inspired" by artists of the past is they actually pull it off convincingly and bring enough of their unique voice to the music even when the inspiration is readily apparent. The album closer, "Mornington Cresent," too sounds straight out of Ziggy time but it is the perfect ending to an exceptional album.
All in all, The Life Pursuit is another standout, yet trippy, release for Belle & Sebastian. While it is a little too early to tell, a full dozen listens and a little time may solidify this as one of the band's best efforts to date. If you're looking for a retread of If Your Feeling Sinister, best to skip this one, or better yet drop your expectations and give The Life Pursuit a try, it's worthy of your full attention. If you don't like it, one of your friends probably will.