Belle & Sebastian – How To Solve Our Human Problems (4 stars)

Belle & Sebastian – How To Solve Our Human Problems

B&S make life sweet again on this EP compilation

Three years ago, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance heralded a seemingly fresh slate for the Belle & Sebastian boys and girl. Largely sidestepping the jangly lo-fi indie textures that made their name in the mid to late 90s, Murdoch and co had moved into seriously poppy territory which owed more to Pet Shop Boys than Tigermilk.

With the three EPs comprising How to Solve Our Human Problems, the band are touching base on their gloriously minimalist past as well as the slickly produced tune-heavy current state they are in. Opening track 'Sweet Dew Lee' starts off sounding like their homage to Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen album before launching into an 80s synth instrumental break which suggests they've been mainlining both seasons of Stranger Things at once. It's perhaps the number which best captures this mighty jousting between past and present, with both periods coming up smelling of something akin to roses.

Elbowing their way between the lo-fi and hi-energy is a surprisingly quasi-psychedelic sheen on tracks such as 'Everything Is Now Part Two' and 'Cornflakes'. On the downside, 'The Girl Doesn't Get It' is just too sprightly to love while closer 'Best Friend' could have landed on a Glasvegas album, and 'Same Star' sheds an almost Motown-infused skin, but knows exactly where to draw the line before teetering into parody.

For longstanding B&S watchers, a trio of EPs may make them pine for the 'Dog on Wheels', 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' and '3..6..9 Seconds of Light' triptych that first brought them to the attention of indie lovers in Glasgow before trampolining them to higher acclaim. While with this threesome, they might not have produced all the solutions to our current global malaise, but for the best part of an hour, Belle & Sebastian have certainly made life sweet again.

Out on Fri 16 Feb on Matador Records.

Belle & Sebastian

Scotland's much loved purveyors of jangling indie magic.

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