Way back in the 90s Belle & Sebastian became a much loved band in the world of indie rock. Besides excellent albums such as If You Are Feeling Sinister and The Boy With The Arab Strap, the band released several coveted EPs. In late 2017 and 2018 B&S released three EPs one month apart which were then collected on one disc entitled How To Solve Our Human Problems. This idea recalls the 1997 boxset of three early EPs albeit in different packaging.
The 90s version of the band was known for Stuart Murdoch’s melancholy lyrics about awkward relationships and witty asides but over the years they have blossomed into an excellent band who easily move from ballads and folk-rock to 70s blue eyed funk. “Sweet Dew Lee” is an upbeat opener with a pleasant guitar melody whereas “We Were Beautiful” recalls darker electronics of “Electric Renaissance” from debut album, Tigermilk. “I’ll Be Your Pilot” showcases a beautiful chorus while that EP’s closer “A Plague On All Other Boys” was written after meeting teenage contest winner from the Write About Love era in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. The next EP starts with “Poor Boy” which is all steering wheel tapping funkiness. Album closer “Best Friend” features Carla J Easton and sounds like a more mature take on classic “Lazy Line Painter Jane”.
“Best Friend” aside, female vocals have always been a one of the best things about Belle & Sebastian – from Isobel Campbell in the early years to Sarah Martin from the early 2000s onward. Here the Martin lead tracks are mostly forgettable. “Everything Is Now” appears twice – once as an instrumental and the second time around with lyrics, neither register while the abrasive “Cornflakes” is mostly dreadful. At fifteen songs, How To Solve Our Human Problems has lots to like but little to love. Somewhere within there is a killer 10 track album.