EP Review: Belle and Sebastian – How to Solve Our Human Problems (Part 2)

by Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)rating 7

In their younger days, Belle & Sebastian were famously recluse and shrouded in mystery, developing almost to the point of a cult of personality. Interaction with the press was a rarity and their lyrics – sharp-witted, erudite and often self-depreciating – proved even more complex than the persona they propagated (intentionally or not). In the clutches of middle age, however, they’ve been undergoing something of a change in approach. In many ways they’re now more accessible than ever; whether this is a reaction to or a consequence of the changing landscape of music consumption remains unclear.

To Stuart Murdoch et al., the EP is an artform in its own right. Instead of stuffing such releases with studio outtakes and B-sides, they devote the same amount of love and attention as they would to a full-length album. Following in the footsteps of their late ’90s EP bonanza (Dog On Wheels, Lazy Line Painter Jane, and 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds Of Light), B&S have committed to another trio of releases under the banner How to Solve Our Human Problems.

As they move onto the second installment of the trilogy, the purpose of this format is ostensibly to divide the tracks into three distinct acts or chapters in order to deliver a certain impact on each outing. On this occasion, their nonchalant demeanor seems to be a coping mechanism for the relentless negativity of the world we live in. Instead of fighting fire with fire, they’ve taken a conciliatory approach. “So let’s consider not being angry”, suggests Murdoch.

Tracks like Show Me The Sun embody this free-spirited attitude, a sort of reckless abandon which is a rarity in the B&S canon. It doesn’t indulge in any unnecessary navel-gazing; instead, it comes flying out the traps with a chorus of ‘na na nas’ before descending into cheery question-and-answer vocals and psychedelic guitars. Cornflakes, too, is nothing short of a riot – crashing cymbals and spacey synths.

The EP’s live and let live philosophy has undoubtedly been a consequence, at least in part, of parenthood. On lead single I’ll Be Your Pilot, Murdoch speaks with an unmistakable paternal tone as he implores his young boy Denny to enjoy his adolescent days while he can. “It’s tough to become a grown-up / Put it off while you can“, he urges. The dialogue plays out like a reassuring chat between father and son; a promise to look out for him, keep him safe. The sentiment is warm and loving, although there is a sense of foreboding when he alludes to the treacherous state of the world, “I tell you that when / You land in the world / It’s like quicksand“.

Part 2 constitutes a solid step forward in the How to Solve Our Human Problems trilogy and, as it happens, represents one of their strongest records in recent times. Despite the lack of characteristic catchy hooks abundant in their earlier material, all five tracks are charming and memorable in their own right. There’s no mistaking their ability to change with the times, though. 22 years on since the release of their debut Tigermilk, they show no signs of running out of ideas yet.

FESTIVAL REVIEW: TRNSMT Day 1

By Liam Menzies(@blnkclyr)

It’s finally arrived: after months of waiting and distortion fuelled trailers, TRNSMT has made its debut. Facing the feat of having to fill in the shoes of Scotland’s quintessential festival T In The Park, this weekend will be facing a lot of scrutiny both in its layout in addition to the music.

Friday was very much the “appeal to the auld yins” day though that didn’t mean it was gonna alienate anyone that was young by any means. In fact, it was arguably the strongest day out of the entire weekend and for good reason too: let’s dive in.

The Vegan Leather

19905019_1053017811499277_8538661191816263813_nWho would have honestly thought that one of the most exciting sets of the entire day would have came from a wee glitzy group from Paisley? Well, those who were aware of The Vegan Leather before today certainly did and even their expectations were blown out of the water. With frontman Gian-Luca walking out in a wee, glimmering disco jacket wielding his guitar and a silver looking (fake) peacock, the feeling of the band’s performance was firmly set.

Tracks like Shake It, while still in their infancy, still got a reaction from the crowd with a lot of people near the front dancing and chanting along: when you have Talking Heads meets Yeah Yeah Yeahs meet LCD-Soundsystem as the closest to a description of your band’s sound, who can really blame them? Out of the lot though, This House gathered the biggest reaction out of the band’s setlist, even literally bringing the audience to their knees just for that eruptious climax of both the song and the band’s set. If The Vegan Leather weren’t on anyone’s radar before this gig, then they for sure as hell are firmly placed at the top now.

9/10

Everything Everything


One of the first bands to play the TRNSMT main stage, Everything Everything had a lot of pressure on them to deliver the goods – they brought them first class by art-pop drone, attaching a big hug and some weird line about a fat child in a push chair along with it. The set’s highlights were undoubtedly the moments where the band played anything off Get To Heaven, an album which converted so many and affirmed the love of fans prior: Jonathan Higgs’ vocals are pushed to their very limits and just when you think they’re about to break, they metamorphose into these grandiose displays of sheer beauty. Some new stuff was shown off that’s set to appear on the band’s upcoming LP A Fever Dream on August 18th and from what we saw, we have more than enough reason to get excited with some dance elements surely being implemented into their latest song’s DNA. Sadly, we’ll have to wait until then to get a better feel of where Everything Everything are going but from this set alone, they’re already at the peak of Kilimanjaro in terms of quality.

8.5/10

Rag N’ Bone Man

The man’s voice has a likeable quality to it akin to leather or caramel. Spent most of my time at the main stage melting over it. Matched with a decent set. – Fraser Nunn (@badknitbearD)

7/10

Belle And Sebastian

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It wouldn’t be a Scottish music festival without having, you know, a Scottish band playing on its first day on the main stage. Question is, who on earth do you get to play before fucking Radiohead? The question was answered by a melodic and resounding “us” by Belle and Sebastian, one act that have managed to make it both here and over the pond though it was clear tonight that they haven’t lost their love of both Scotland and their roots.

Their was the back and forth patter between the crowd and frontman Stuart Murdoch who told stories of him walking through Glasgow Green after being at the old 13th Note and getting on the ferry to Dunoon to give some story to the tracks they were about to play. Oh boy, the tracks: not wanting to take from one album too much, Belle and Sebastian gave a diverse setlist with some unappreciated gems as well as some fan favourites, The Boy With The Arab Strap and Stars Of Track and Field getting an overwhelmingly positive reception by the audience. Even those who may have been in the crowd just to get a bit closer to Thom Yorke and co. were surprised by just how good the act were: hell, even fans like ourselves couldn’t believe the showmanship displayed by a band over two decades into their lifespan.

9/10

Radiohead

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Here it was, the main event. Radiohead‘s reputation precedes them though that changes from person to person: some will naively tell you that they’re a bunch of moaners, others will tell you they’re the best band of all time – funnily enough, both statements aren’t exclusive from the either. As the band began things with a curveball, Let Down starting off the night’s proceedings instead of the tour’s old faithful DayDreaming intro, the way tonight’s performance was gonna go was set.

There were too many highlights to count: Thom Yorke’s infectious da dancing to Myxomatosis had mulitple folk in the audience trying to replicate it, there was the sing-song loveliness of the band’s not so deep cuts like No Surprises and Paranoid Android, beautiful moments where the two infused like during Bodysnatchers that probably had the biggest reaction from the audience even though it’s not one of the best known tracks from the group. Repeatedly thanking the audience throughout the set, Yorke and co’s appreciation for both everyone in attendance and the fans who have got them there was honest and heartwarming.

“This is what you get, when you mess with us” Yorke sings gracefully on closing track Karma Police: if this is the result then everyone should fuck with Radiohead more often.

10/10


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TRNSMT Just Announced Their Lineup And The Internet Is Happy

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

 

In stark contrast to the sub-par reception to the Reading and Leeds announcement, the reveal of the very first TRNSMT festival line-up has been received with sheer positivity. With the festival being hyped up as a replacement to T In The Park, more on that later, TRNSMT have one-upped the long lasting Scottish festival with three stellar headliners.

T In The Park’s organisers confirmed in November that the festival would be ‘taking a break’ in 2017 after a series of problems in recent years on site at Strathallan Castle and while TRNSMT is set to fill in the gap, DF Concerts boss Geoff Ellis insisted that TRNSMT should not be viewed as a “replacement” for T. Ellis hopes that eventually TRNSMT could exist side by side with T and make Scotland a real festival force and with the acts announced for the 7th-9th July, there’s a real chance of that happening.

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Friday will be fronted by musical pioneers Radiohead who have long been rumoured to be making an appearance and will not only be doing so but bringing along homegrown critical gems Belle and Sebastian in addition to London Grammar (meh) and Rag N’ Bone Man, packing in more diversity in just one day than R+L managed over two. The following day will see Kasabian, previously announced as a UK festival exclusive for R+L, lead Saturday night’s events with a whole host of acts such as Catfish & The Bottlemen and Circa Waves serving that niche indie rock/mod crowd that T In The Park slowly but surely started to pander to in its final years.

It wouldn’t be a proper Scottish festival without a native headliner and who else but Biffy Clyro would be chosen to take on the challenge having played out a stunning show at Bellahouston Park last summer. Not only that but The 1975 and Twin Atlantic will be preceding the bearded rockers, making sure that festival goers will be getting more bang for their buck considering many would pay upwards of £30 to see each act separately.

Not only will there be heavy-hitters but Glasgow will be staying true to its roots by displaying up and coming acts. “Something that we’re going to be doing at TRNSMT as well is the King Tut’s stage, which is going to be an emerging artists’ stage. To me that’s important because the King Tut’s venue has played an important role in the music scene in Glasgow and in Scotland,” Ellis said.

The reactions have been enthusiastic to say the least, as shown by twitter users here:

https://twitter.com/bbloodorange/status/826527713141858305

 

 

https://twitter.com/ellliot_wood/status/826517969081622528

With many seeing TRNSMT as a must go festival along with Parklife, Glasgow could be well on its way to cementing itself as not only a haven for gigs but festivals as well.


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