There's no doubt that Belle and Sebastian are an essential indie band. With a stellar opening trio of albums released just before the turn of the 21st century, this Scottish band subtly revitalized indie pop for a new era with a craft and poetry straight from the Smiths handbook. With most of this band's albums being above the average for their genre, they had a lot of pressure put on their return after a 7-year-long studio absence. And while fans should be placated by 2022's A Bit of Previous, the record's unassuming nature is a bit of a letdown compared to albums like If You're Feeling Sinister.
Known for their intricate arrangements, Belle and Sebastian captured attentions around the world for its simultaneously timely and 60s-referencing sound. Of course, by now, they have evolved musically and personally, with their previous record Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance going so far as to approach a disco-driven pulse. A Bit of Previous goes back into an ornate, classic sound, trying out a couple different sounds like the harmonica-laden rock of 'Unnecessary Drama' and an older Belle and Sebastian-referencing chamber pop seeping into the opener 'Young and Stupid.'
The Verdict on 'A Bit of Previous'
While A Bit of Previous successfully looks back on the classic band's career, the magic is not quite there. Non-fans will be especially critical, but picky fans might also lean into the phoned-in aspects of the record. The production is certainly immaculate, and individual songs have a varied and well-formed sonic backdrop, but the total experience is just not all there. It's the main problem with classic bands that have a near-perfect back catalog: as soon as you stop revitalizing your sound and start reflecting, you run into the A Bit of Previous bittersweetness which peppers in some unsavory aspects by the end.