Belle and Sebastian’s new album – their first since 2019’s Days of the Bagnold Summer, which doubled as a soundtrack to the film of the same name – is more proof (if it was needed) that they are one the most important pop bands going. Self-produced and recorded, the record features the excellent ‘Young And Stupid’, a stuttering folk rock earworm that faces the passage of time with wry ennui; ‘Come On Home’, whose warm fireside piano evokes a handing over of the generational baton; and the deceptively feel-good, choir-backed ‘If They’re Shooting At You’, a poignant ode to defiance and survival.
A Bit of Previous is also scattered with big, occasionally delirious pop moments, such as ‘Unnecessary Drama’, which rips through a cacophony of overdriven riffs and a droning harmonica that borders on the unhinged, and is one of the band’s heaviest outings since, well, ever, and The 140+ bpm ‘Talk To Me Talk To Me’, which blazes with Euro synths and keyboard horns as the voices of Murdoch and Martin intertwine on a breathless chorus. On the other side of the spectrum are some of Belle and Sebastian’s most moving ballads, such as the tender finger-picked paean to a lover, ‘Do It For Your Country’, and the doo-wop-inflected ‘Sea Of Sorrow’, which showcase Murdoch’s tenor at its most bare and affecting.
A Bit of Previous is unashamedly heterogeneous, and the sound of a band tackling age and growing older with grace. Irreverent, musically daring, and, as ever, lyrically thrilling, long may Belle and Sebastian continue.