Irony abounds in the title of Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, the ninth album by the Scottish collective Belle & Sebastian. It goes unstated that the record was released in an atmosphere not quite synonymous with peace, but the group unquestionably want to dance, spending nearly half of this lengthy record grooving to a neo-disco beat. To approximate the pulse of a mirror ball, Belle & Sebastian hired Ben H Allen, a producer best known for his work with the modern psychedelic troupes Animal Collective and Washed Out, a decided shift away from the exquisitely sculpted miniatures that populated B&S' two records with Tony Hoffer, particularly Write About Love. If that 2010 album found the band embracing their eccentricities and taking the time to whittle their quirks down to their basic elements, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance finds the group stretching way out, twice taking as long as seven minutes to complete a cut and only once flirting with the three-minute mark. Surely, the grandest formal experiments are the longest tracks -- "Enter Sylvia Path" plays like a slyly decadent 12" mix and "Play for Today," featuring Dee Dee Penny of the Dum Dum Girls, is a duet with de facto leader Stuart Murdoch -- but even the relatively concise "The Party Line" bears a heavy four-four thump, and "Perfect Couples" percolates with polyrhythms previously unheard on Belle & Sebastian's records. Next to these brazen departures lie a few songs where flashy production tricks are grafted upon pleasingly familiar B&S forms (the hard swing and fuzz of "Allie," the analog whine on "The Power of Three," the Motown bounce of "The Book of You'), along with reassuringly meditative ballads and the remarkable "The Everlasting Muse," which takes a sharp left turn from jazz to woozy folk. This is the sound of a band that's growing fearless in middle age, and while the record occasionally does drag -- all those long songs push it over an hour, but the sequencing makes it feel even longer -- there's also a thrill hearing a band unafraid to stumble. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Rolling Stone - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[With] a handful of inventive standouts like 'The Book of You,' where B&S shape electronic music around their strengths....Stick it out to the last few tracks and you'll hear the band's familiar marvels in a bright new light."
Spin - "As always, Murdoch's writing is pristine -- learned but unpretentious; complex but not unfocused; revealing but not diary-entry juvenile."
Entertainment Weekly - "Murdoch's acute storytelling eye remains laser-focused, especially on the wry ''Perfect Couples.'" -- Grade:' A-
Magnet - "It's the sound of a group rejuvenated, as intimate and heartfelt as ever, with all the old reference points intact, but giddily embracing a kind of bastardized Euro-disco more often practiced by the likes of Saint Etienne and the Pet Shop Boys."
Billboard - "Belle & Sebastian deliver their most textured, eclectic collection yet. 'The Party Line' is Franz Ferdinand's dance-punk hit 'Take Me Out' with synths and added anxiety."
Paste (magazine) - "True to the title, this is the band's danciest record ever....The good dance songs on here sound equally as at home on a Belle & Sebastian record as they would in a particularly refined club."
Clash (magazine) - "[W]ith the ebullient pop swing of `Nobody's Empire' and mournful strings of `The Cat With The Cream' up with their finest work."
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