Late Developers

Jan 18, 2023
Web Exclusive

By Ian Rushbury


Belle and Sebastian are full of surprises, aren’t they? Surprise number one is that their twelfth album, Late Developers, comes only around seven months since the release of 2022’s A Bit of Previous. Surprise number two, is that the opening track, “Juliet Naked,” is very nearly a mid-tempo hard rock tune. The Thin Lizzy name-check in 2003’s “I’m a Cuckoo” might have set an alarm bell or two ringing, but “Juliet Naked” and the second tune on the record “Give a Little Time” are pretty rockin’ for Scotland’s foremost purveyors of whimsy.

By the time we get to “Will I Tell You a Secret,” the balance has been restored. The naughty electric guitars have been put neatly under the bed and acoustic guitar and violin take the lead. This is the kind of tune that could have come from almost any part of Belle and Sebastian’s 26- (yes, 26) year career. That’s not to say it’s just a tired old rerun of the formula—far from it. It’s a gorgeous tune that supports a typically melodic vocal line.

“The Evening Star” sounds like a huge summertime hit, so it’s a shame this has been released when there’s likely to be snow on the roof. It’s an effortless, Motown groove that deserves to be top of the pop charts for at least a month. Preferably July. That glides nicely into “When You’re Not with Me,” which is another soul-infused potential smash. A brass section parps nicely in all the appropriate places and the chorus is a monster. I didn’t think they wrote ‘em like this anymore.

Late Developers is a gem. Belle and Sebastian have been doing this for quite some time and it appears that they’re still enthusiastic about popular music in almost all of its myriad forms. You could almost forgive them for sleepwalking through a record, but that obviously wasn’t on the agenda when they walked into the studio to record this. If the album title is a coy reference to the fact that the band feel that they’re only now finding their feet, I’d be inclined to disagree. They’ve always been great and this album proves that they still are. (www.belleandsebastian.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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