Belle and Sebastian
Write About Love


3.0
good

Review

by Kiran EMERITUS
October 9th, 2010 | 31 replies | 15,342 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Belle and Sebastian pull a cannonball after a series of swan dives.

It kind of figures that a band whose subtle songwriting and wit has propelled them to success would slip and stumble at the point where they’ve adopted the most bold album title since Prince’s Lovesexy. You see, Belle and Sebastian have been writing about love their entire career; good love, bad love, sadomasochistic love – they’ve run the gamut. Coming off two marvels of artistic reinvigoration, Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit, the idea that this is where the topic needed a signpost could very well have been a cause for worry but who would’ve thought of that? The band were on a steep upward trend and nobody likes a pessimist. Unfortunately, this is where the trend curves. Write About Love is a determinedly placid record.

It’s very possible that the impact of Write About Love’s failure is greatened by the success of the two albums preceding it. Four years is a long time to wait and coming off back-to-back successes, anything not up to that standard would’ve been met with dissatisfaction. It mimics the release of The Boy With The Arab Strap – an album burdened by the pressure of following up one of the most universally adored indie pop albums ever. The truth is, though, that Write About Love is weak in any context; uncreative by their high standards and mediocre by most others. The Life Pursuit was a record that brought ambition by the bucket load but one of the key downfalls of Write About Love is that it feels too lazy to have even gone to the well.

Where at one time every word sung from Stuart Murdoch’s mouth seemed to glow with creativity, Write About Love is, at its weakest moments, exceptionally plain. The problem with many of the songs, like “Calculating Bimbo” and “The Ghost of Rockschool”, is that they’re just nice songs. They’re nice in the way your grandma would respond when you asked her as a kid to watch you cannonball off the diving board: “That’s nice, dear.” Let’s face it, she wasn’t that impressed. You could’ve done a few spins. Jumping backwards was a known crowd-pleaser. If you were especially committed you could’ve gained a few pounds, skinny kids never make big waves. At the end of the day, you just didn’t do enough – that’s the crux of Belle and Sebastian’s problem; it’s not bad, it just isn’t enough. It’s unremarkable. Belle and Sebastian’s grandmother is not impressed.

It’s not even that easy to pick the winners here. “I Want The World to Stop” is the best example of the up-tempo, hook-boasting pop they’ve championed their entire career and it’s a delightful song from start to finish but it stands far and away as the best here. “I Didn’t See It Coming” and “Write About Love” are a step above the rest, the former being a great Sarah Martin-led number and the latter marked by Carey Mulligan’s contribution, in which her fitting, lovely vocals sing the inexcusably bad: “He’s intellectual and he’s hot / but he understands” though, in all fairness, she’s far too cute to hold it against her. Then there’s “Little Lou, Ugly Jack and Prophet John” which is a confusing addition in the sense that it’s pleasant and Norah Jones sounds as good as ever, but the song is something you’d much sooner find on a Norah Jones album than a Belle and Sebastian one (unless Belle and Sebastian decide to start recording boring piano lounge albums) and the fact that it’s on a Belle and Sebastian album is what makes it feel like you’re being cheated.

Worst of all though, and by some margin, is a moment that might just go down as the strangest artistic decision of 2010. “Read The Blessed Pages” doesn’t have a lot going for it to begin with: it’s dreary, frustratingly slow and completely uninspired. Even amidst the mediocrity, it’s pretty bad. And then, of all possible things, there’s (what sounds like) a pan flute solo. An outrageously odd, out-of-place, medieval pan flute solo. Now, don’t get me wrong, pan flute is a perfectly acceptable instrument if used in the right context. Here, though, I feel like if I concentrate hard enough memories of King John and the black plague would begin rushing back. And then “I Can See Your Future” brings us back to the buoyant and twee Belle and Sebastian we know, and it’s as if nothing ever happened. But it did happen and it was absolutely baffling.

At the end of the day, the title Write About Love turned out to be just as bland as the music it pertained to. It’s disappointing that after The Life Pursuit exemplified their creative best, they’d fail to recapture that form four years later and the brilliant records that preceded this are just another reason why it’s a total bummer giving such a great band such a low rating. They’ve written a pleasant album and the problem is, as well the reason why the hammer has come down so strongly, with a band like Belle and Sebastian, and after records like If You’re Feeling Sinister, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and The Life Pursuit, just good isn’t good enough. Get back on that diving board, Mr. Murdoch.



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user ratings (113)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
Matthew D. French (3.5)
Nothing ventured, nothing gained; forward’s the only way to go!...

Conrad Tao EMERITUS (2.5)
Belle and Sebastian write about mediocrity....


Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2010



17920 Comments


they’re run the gamut


here is a typo!

hello kiran this is a review that is great

Kiran
Emeritus
October 9th 2010



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

fixed, somehow those always get through

Digging: Spoon - They Want My Soul

conradtao
Emeritus
October 9th 2010



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

"they’ve adopted the most bold album title since Prince’s Lovesexy (and it’s very lovesexy album cover)"

typo (it's/its)?

great review, really like the cannonball-off-diving-board metaphor, fits how i feel about this album

couldwinarabbit
October 9th 2010



6996 Comments


but I wanted this to be really good.

AggravatedYeti
October 9th 2010



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

you and me both rabbit.

and Conrad I think you're right--should be "its"

great stuff here Dr. Kirgasm, as usual.

couldwinarabbit
October 9th 2010



6996 Comments


ya good review...depressing but good.

Gyromania
October 9th 2010



15202 Comments


Brilliant review Kiran. I loved the cannonball metaphor. It's funny how this grew off us so quickly, but more than anything, it's upsetting =[

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
October 9th 2010



23798 Comments


Great summary.

Kiran
Emeritus
October 9th 2010



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

thanks guys. this was one of my most anticipated of the year so that sucks. it's still a pleasant album by all means, it just rarely becomes more than that. i'd still give it a listen.

EVedder27
October 10th 2010



6088 Comments


great review, haven't heard yet but not expecting much anymore

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
October 10th 2010



15727 Comments


great review. small thing you missed an italicized album name in the 2nd paragraph. nbd

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

Jips
October 11th 2010



1129 Comments


you could apply what you said about this record to the way i feel about everything ive heard from them...

which is sad i really want to like them but in the end they are as you say, just nice songs... nothing ever grabs me

Kiran
Emeritus
October 11th 2010



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

have you heard the life pursuit? it's probably the best starting point for someone who feels like that, it's the most immediate

Gyromania
October 11th 2010



15202 Comments


I've had The Fox In The Snow stuck in my head for days.

Kiran
Emeritus
October 11th 2010



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i tend to hum 'get me away from here i'm dying' at completely unprompted moments in life, even if i haven't heard it in months

Gyromania
October 11th 2010



15202 Comments


Haha, I'll occasionally sing "fox in the snow", or "you are my girl and you don't even know it / I am living up the life of a poet". Mostly in the shower. By the way, I'm pretty sure that by the end of the year, Read The Blessed Pages will make an appearance in my "top ten shittiest songs of 2010", it's just so frustrating.

Ponton
Emeritus
October 11th 2010



5784 Comments


ug, was expecting this to be 4-4.5 for me

great review kiran

dcha
October 11th 2010



990 Comments


So I named by balls Belle & Sebastian.

AggravatedYeti
October 11th 2010



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

8.2 from the fork.
color me surprised.

evenwith
October 11th 2010



16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is growing on me slowly.



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