B&S have released this moody and slight single as something of a surprise. It seems to be a stand alone release, not tied to an upcoming album or part of a bigger strategy.
The idea of releasing a new song to support a summer tour is quite a quaint concept at this stage of the game. Quaint is one of the default settings for Belle & Sebastian. But rather than play the obvious summer anthem there’s a different air around this song.
“I was blank as I could be, hearing voices telling me, “Walk away from everything”
Oh I wasn’t meant to go, far away from those I know, to some desolate below”
It’s not a boppy catchy thing like recent singles have been (from The Party Line all the way back to Funny Little Frog). It’s much more an atmospheric mood piece. And the mood is wistful reminiscence over thin beats and ambient twangs.
“We were in the urban scene, where they grind the coffee bean, where the women are oblique and the boys are paper thin, ragged beards upon their chin, we were on the outside looking in”
It would appear Stuart is feeling his age. He’s looking at the young hipsters and seeing them as an otherness, he’s from a different era. I hear you Stu. I hear you singing directly to my experience as ever.
“We were beautiful before this went down, we were beautiful before the years came, turned it upside down, we were beautiful before we got wise”
Similar in feel to some of the tracks on (relatively) recent album Write About Love but with a longer lens on the hindsight. I’m having these conversations with friends these days. We go to gigs and reminisce on shows we saw 20-25 years ago. We look at the kids at the shows and think ‘They have no idea what went down in this room’, while ‘it’ is going down for them right before our eyes.
“We were wrapped around our roots, nothing on except our boots, we were intimate around the waist, we were settling our scores, we were healing over sores, we were living out the pleasure that we lost”
B&S seem to be a good ‘bridge the generational gap’ band. The mix at their shows goes from kids still in schools experimenting with their bookish look to people who discovered them around the millennium and upwards to people who consider anything post Boy With The Arab Strap as ‘latter day’.
We Were Beautiful is the band of glamourous but awkward kids finally showing their age. Like a fine wine they’re maturing delightfully still.