The Belle Game – Ritual Tradition Habit
The Belle Game is an excellent example of a band with a sound, the kind of sound that makes them recognizable from only the opening ether of a song. An unintended consequence of a band adhering as strictly to a sound as this is often the melding together of songs and an inherent over-similarity between tracks, but The Belle Game mostly avoids this with Ritual Tradition Habit. There is some overlap, but it seems to me that this was, to a degree, an intended effect of the album; to feel a bit like one continuous experience, broken into two distinct movements. On that point, the work very much succeeds. It almost seems a shame to remove any of these songs from their place within the careful structure of the album.
The first movement, which I will refer to as “Ritual,” offers some bouncier tunes, albeit dampened appropriately by the style. At times this section recalls Australian rockers White Rabbits, other times I hear just a touch of Arcade Fire. “Wait Up For You” was my personal favourite, when the lead guitar strikes up and ushers us into Andrea Lo’s exquisite vocal I get chills. She sings throughout the album with beautiful clarity and obvious passion, her voice is ideal. My one complaint about this first portion of the album is that all of these songs are written in a key that is entirely too high for me to sing along with, and I badly want to sing along with them. But I’m not sure that qualifies as a criticism.
The second movement, hereafter referred to as “Tradition,” delves into darker, more melancholy themes. “Bruises To Ash” sounds a bit like Florence + The Machine, and it sets the tone for the more sinister tunes to come. “Blame Fiction” is a bit of a blemish, its repetition on the chorus borders on the irritating. Each of the songs in Tradition is perhaps a touch too long, particularly “Keeps Me Up At Night”, which is a great song but it begins to drag a bit by the three-minute mark. A more uplifting track, “Little Wars (Causing Your Trouble)” sends us into the end of the album. “Little Wars” is like a roller coaster in that it takes you all over the same ground in many different ways, and it’s heavy. It’s a very powerful song, each distinctive element lining up to strike just the right chord with the listener at just the right time. “Habit” serves as the denouement, and eases you out of the album. It’s a return to the uneasy atmosphere of the opening track “Ritual”, the full circle closure for our story.
This is a great album. It is carefully constructed, endlessly engaging and I can’t think of a third alliterative compliment so I’ll leave it with those two. Ritual Tradition Habit is well worth listening to, and once you’ve done that you’ll have no choice but to do it again.