Belle & Sebastian – How to Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1)

Belle & Sebastian return to the EP format for the first of three new records

Album Review by Lewis Wade | 05 Dec 2017
  • Belle Sebastian - How to Solve Our Human Problems
Album title: How to Solve Our Problems (Part 1) EP
Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Label: Matador
Release date: 8 Dec

The How to Solve Our Human Problems project, to be released in three parts, is Belle & Sebastian's attempt to return to their 90s heyday. Following the releases of Tigermilk and If You're Feeling Sinister in 1996 the band were on a creative hot streak that culminated in three 1997 EPs, Dog on Wheels, Lazy Line Painter Jane and 3..6.. 9 Seconds of Light.

The recreation of this style of recording has allowed the band to lay down tracks as and when they arrive and to hone new ideas over a longer period. Each EP is centred around a single, the first being We Were Beautiful, which begins with a skittering drumbeat and features plaintively nostalgic semi-spoken lyrics. It's archetypal B&S, but with enough charm to sound fresh and interesting.

The true standout of the EP is Fickle Season, which sees Sarah Martin's lilting voice draped in a beautifully simple arrangement (acoustic guitar and soft drum clicks), mulling over the passing of time. It's reminiscent of Isobel Campbell's star turn on Family Tree or Martin's own Waiting for the Moon to Rise.

The other three tracks are inoffensive but somewhat forgettable, and if the point of these EPs is to provide a snapshot of creative process in motion, How to Solve... Part 1 is simply too meandering to hit with much impact. Hopefully they can recapture some of the overflowing innovative urgency they had in 1997 over Parts 2 and 3. [Lewis Wade]

Listen to: Fickle Season, We Were Beautiful