Belle and Sebastian have announced their 9th album and first studio full-length in 7 years, A Bit Of Previous, released May 6th on Matador. Listen to / watch the video for first single ‘Unnecessary Drama’ below
“The song is about a young person experimenting in being a human again after a forced hiatus”, says frontman Stuart Murdoch. “The person is weighing up whether or not it’s worth the mess! Still, you dip your toe in and it becomes delicious, and you get too much of it. Between trouble and nothing, we still choose the trouble.”
The BRIT Award-winning 7-piece have also announced a spring-summer US tour. Full dates can be found below, alongside rescheduled UK and European tour dates for 2022 and 2023.
A Bit Of Previous was recorded in Belle and Sebastian’s hometown of Glasgow when plans to fly to Los Angeles in spring of 2020 were scrapped due to the pandemic. Says Murdoch in the liner notes: “We did it together, us and the city. This record was the first ‘full’ LP recording for B&S in Glasgow since Fold Your Hands Child, 1999. We clocked in every morning, we played our songs, we wrote together, we tried new things, we took the proverbial lump of clay, and we threw it every day.”
The result is one the most diverse, hands-on and thrilling entries in the bands catalogue, self-produced and recorded (with contributions from Brian McNeill, Matt Wiggins, Kevin Burleigh and Shawn Everett). ‘Young And Stupid’ is a stuttering folk rock earworm that faces the passage of time with wry ennui: “Now we’re old with creaking bones / Some with partners some alone / Some with kids and some with dogs / Getting through the nightly slog / Everything is fine when you’re young and stupid”. ‘Come On Home’, with its warm fireside piano, evokes a handing over of the generational baton with a call to “Give a chance to the old / Set the record straight on the welfare state”.
While the arrangements are often playful, there is an underlying gravity. The deceptively feel good, choir-backed ‘If They’re Shooting At You’ reads like a poignant ode to defiance and survival: ‘If they’re shooting at you kid / You must be doing something right”. On Martin’s ‘Reclaim The Night’, a jaunty backbeat tells of a cross-generational everywoman trepidation that in 2022 is more pertinent than ever.
A Bit of Previous is also scattered with big, occasionally delirious pop moments. ‘Unnecessary Drama’ 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. The 140+ bpm ’Talk To Me Talk To Me’ is ablaze with euro synths and keyboard horns as the voices of Murdoch and Martin intertwine on a breathless chorus. ‘Working Boy in New York City’ exists in a parallel universe where the band did in fact make it to California – such is the escapist bliss of its sloping flute and bittersweet funk.
On the other side of the spectrum are some of Belle and Sebastian’s most moving ballads. Tender finger-picked paean to a lover ‘Do It For Your Country’ and doo-wop-inflicted ‘Sea Of Sorrow’ showcase Murdoch’s tenor at its most bare and affecting, while Stevie Jackson contributes lovelorn country waltz ‘Deathbed of My Dreams’.
So what is a A Bit of Previous? It’s a bit of everything, and a lot of what makes Belle and Sebastian so special and enduring. It’s a band tackling the insight, experience and responsibility that go with growing older with grace, irreverence, musical bravado and lyrical exactitude and emerging as an endless source of energy and reinvention.
There’s a touch of Buddhism in the title, too – a practice increasingly influential on Murdoch’s outlook in recent years and given a further manifestation via his popular weekly guided online meditation sessions. As Murdoch notes in the liner notes: “There is a firmly held belief in Buddhism that we have been reborn so many times and in so many guises that if we look around us, we are bound to see a person who has been our mother in a past life. And we are surrounded by people who have been our children. If we truly had that in our minds and in our hearts, we would drop the prejudice we had: our attitude to strangers and difficult people would alter emphatically.”
The last few years have seen Belle and Sebastian in a host of eclectic and inspired undertakings: The Boaty Weekender – their own 3000 capacity star-studded four-day music festival on a Mediterranean cruise liner; a soundtrack for the directorial debut of The Inbetweeners’ Simon Bird; a trilogy of EPs; a live album showcasing their present-day iteration as savvy main stage entertainers; and in 2020 a collaborative lockdown project with fans called ‘Protecting The Hive’. The common denominator, which can be traced back to their earliest days, is a restless DIY spirit and an unmediated bond with their fans and surrounding musical community.
A Bit Of Previous is available in four different artwork covers across LP, CD and digital. The indie version of the LP includes a bonus 7″ with standalone track A Bit Of Previous. Pre-order the album HERE.
Jul-15 Bristol, UK Lloyds Amphitheatre, Bristol Harbourside
Jul-16 Stirling, UK Cardross Estate, Doune The Rabbit Hole
Nov-13 Cardiff, UK Great Hall – Student’s Union
Nov-14 London, UK The Roundhouse
Nov-15 London, UK The Roundhouse
Nov -17 Sheffield, UK O2 Academy Sheffield
Nov-18 Liverpool, UK Olympia
Nov -19 Hull, UK Asylum, Hull University Union
Nov-21 Aberdeen, UK Beach Ballroom
Nov-23 Edinburgh, UK Usher Hall
Nov-24 Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK O2 City Hall, Newcastle
Nov-25 Manchester, UK Manchester Academy
Nov-27 Cambridge, UK Corn Exchange
Nov-28 Birmingham, UK O2 Academy Birmingham
Nov-29 Southampton, UK O2 Guildhall Southampton
Nov-30 Brighton, UK Brighton Dome