How To Solve Our Human Problems, Part 2, Scottish indie pop outfit Belle and Sebastian’s second installment of an EP trilogy, is an improvement over its limp and underwhelming predecessor. Whereas Part 1’s lackadaisical moments had B&S’ members conveying a feeling of indifference and tediousness rather than the sunshiny mellowness they were presumably aiming for, Part 2 finds Stuart Murdoch and company getting their groove somewhat back, occasionally reminding its longtime fans of the energy and passion the collective is capable of. Why these five tracks weren’t sequenced in the forepart of what will ultimately be a fifteen-song single disc collection is anyone’s guess.
Steam-inspired acapella “na, na, na…” vocals start things off nicely on the dancefloor-ready, “Show Me The Sun”, an upbeat number which utilizes galloping drums, a fuzzy bassline, and a fiery lead guitar to accompany Murdoch’s earnest lead vocals and Sarah Martin’s capable backing. As if teasing its successor, Martin features on “Same Star”, a shimmering mid-tempo disco track that could easily be mistaken for a lost radio hit from the 1970s. Changing things up a bit, a lovely oboe (soprano sax?) features prominently on the gentle “I’ll Be Your Pilot”. “It’s tough to become a grownup, put it off while you can,” Murdoch sings tutorially before a confirming chorus kicks in as he reassuringly asserts the listener, “I’ll keep you safe, I’ll be your pilot.”
The final two songs on Part 2 don’t work as well as the first three. “Cornflakes’” minor turns and proggy inklings do nothing to enhance Stevie Jackson’s already trying vocals, and “A Plague On Other Boys”, the EP’s atmospheric and longwinded final song, only somewhat recoups the charm lost on account of its awkward neighbor. Still, How To Solve Our Human Problems, Part 2 is a definite step in the right direction and proves that Belle and Sebastian can still deliver a gem or two in the delicate and stylish vein in which the band is most associated.