“We Were Beautiful,” the just-released-moments-ago new single from Belle & Sebastian, does as good a job as anything can do at providing a summary of the musical poses that B&S has pulled off at various points throughout their career so far. There is, first and foremost, the dancefloor pulse of “Electric Renaissance,”; but there’s also dour recitation style of “If You’re Feeling Sinister”; the musical theater vibe that marked parts of The Life Pursuit on up through 2015’s Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance (including, if you forgot, God Help The Girl, an actual movie musical). All of it building up to, in the case of “We Were Beautiful,” a big, monolithic slab of chorus that has increasingly characterized the band’s output in a way it didn’t, say, ten years ago.
It doesn’t all fit, but that’s okay — there’s plenty, as you can see, to go around. “We Were Beautiful” feels more like a reminder than a step forward: We’re Belle & Sebastian, it says, and these are all of the things we can do. And we’ve done these particular things better for a longer time than any other band going. Think of it: Spoon now reminds me, for some reason, of the TV show The Office (and the American version at that). Morrissey has casually bigoted himself into a mass exodus. I can no longer tell the difference between LCD Soundsystem and Phish. Who would have ever thought that it’d be Belle & Sebastian who’d be the last “smart” band standing?
With Andrew Bird. Tickets available here.