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Belle And Sebastian

  • Tigermilk,
  • If You're Feeling Sinister,
  • Dog On Wheels,
  • Lazy Line Painter,
  • 3 6 9 Seconds Of Light,
  • The Boy With The Arab
  • Strap,
  • Modern Rock Song,
  • Legal Man,
  • Fold Your Hands Child...,
  • Jonathan David,
  • I'm Waking Up To Us,
  • Storytelling,
  • Dear Catastrophe
  • Waitress,
  • Push Barman To Open
  • Old Wounds,
  • The Life Pursuit,
  • Write About Love,

  • Album Reviews |

    Belle And Sebastian

    1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th

    Tigermilk 8 ( 1996, UK pos 13 )
    The State I Am In / Expectations / She's Losing It / You're Just A Baby / Electronic Renaissance / I Could Be Dreaming / We Rule The School / My Wandering Days Are Over / I Don't Love Anyone / Mary Jo

    Belle and Sebastian were formed by Stuart Murdoch (singer/writer) and Stuart David (bass) and took part in a College Music Business Course that produces and releases one record a year, nearly always a single. Belle And Sebastian recorded an albums worth of songs in only three days, and that became 'Tigermilk'. It was originally released only on Vinyl in a very limited edition, later re-issued on CD due to public demand. So, we get a cheaply recorded, lo-fi production. It doesn't matter when you get some genuinely moving and accomplished songwriting. The songs shine through. Not least the opening 'The State I Am In' which contains some truly startling lyrics. 'Expectations' rattles along at a fair old pace - strummed guitars, a torrent of words of a poetic, real life, story-telling nature and a burst into ecstatic sounding trumpet and violin for the instrumental break. None of the opening three songs are at all similar in tone or feel. 'She's Losing It' is happy and jaunty, and sports a fairly catchy chorus to sing-a-long with. 'You're Just A Baby' is the first song that really suffers because of the cheap and quick manner in which this album was recorded. Very 'trebly', which is a shame, as there's a fair amount of melody in there and some nice harmony parts. 'Electronic Renaissance' is a truly bizarre early Eighties styled Synth experiment. That it doesn't work at all but has still been included on the record perhaps indicates the 'rushed' nature of the recording. Although, to be fair, many of these songs had already been written and worked out in demo form before the group entered recording studios.

    The second half opens with 'I Could Be Dreaming', another guitar pop song with fine lyrics, nothing really special or startling. Nothing at all on the album so far ( bar possibly the opening song ) to indicate that this band is anything special... 'We Rule The School' is a beautifully sung, heartbreaking ballad. 'My Wandering Days Are Over' has utterly charming lyrics, effectively strummed guitars that are joined by a second guitar as the song progresses. Trumpet, a march across the chorus, picking up tempo. 'I Don't Love Anyone' borrows a trick last heard on The Smiths 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'. We get happy, uplifting, melodic guitars. And then a set of self-depreciating lyrics married to this happy tune. It's a contrast that works well, and Belle And Sebastian pull it off extremely well. Flute turns up for the closing, folky 'Mary Jo'. Stuart continues to sing in a folk, singer song-writer kind of style. Not a voice belonging to somebody could ever really describe as a 'good' singer, but it's an affecting voice and very easy and enjoyable to listen to. Much like the album as a whole. Not too much here can rank alongside the likes of Belle And Sebastian idols Felt, or The Smiths, or Simon And Garfunkel. It doesn't matter - this is still a good record in it's own right.

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    Readers Comments

    Oscar miscreanty@yahoo.com
    I must confess to being one of the people who see this as B&S's all time high point. 'Sinister' may be alot more 'even', but the highs just arent as high as they are on Tigermilk. 'We rule the school' is B&S's best song ever for me! and 'I dont love anyone', and 'the state i am in' follow quite close behind. And theres so much experimentation too! You dont see B&S doing this now! Electronic Renaissance just works the whole Eighties synth thing perfectly, and the second half of 'I could be dreaming' is no less great. Someone is reading out Rip Van Winkle over the top of a sparky guitar riff. And it just works, damnit! Not just works. Its bloody brilliant. The whole album just oozes a sense of fun. Its playful, its frieldly, its tigermilk, damnit! You dont see B&S having this much fun in any of their later albums.

    Steve C stevec@hotmail.com
    Stunner of an album. Gorgeous, lyrics that are actually interesting and engaging, and did I say gorgeous. That bugle/trumpet bit in "My wandering days are over" is just divine.

    Fiona fionarice@imagine.ie
    I agree with the above review. In one song Stuart reference's a Felt song when he sings - ' i met a man who said...... the world is as soft as lace'. This song is on Felt's Splendour of Fear album.

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    If You're Feeling Sinister 9 ( 1996 ) more best albums...
    Stars Of Track And Field / Seeing Other People / Me And The Major / Like Dylan In The Movies / Fox In The Snow / Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying / If You're Feeling Sinister / Mayfly / Boy Done Wrong Again / Judy And The Dream Of Horses

    In some ways, yes, you can consider this the first Belle And Sebastian album 'proper' - even with the occasionally good, sometimes brilliant 'Tigermilk'. Here we get a properly recorded record with more care taken over the performances and production. We get an absolutely stunning song to open. 'Stars Of Track And Field' opens quietly, just Stuart and his guitar. Following the opening verse a burst of drums comes in, the second verse then features additional guitar and bass to flesh out the sound. Keyboards come in - the track building up and up towards something. That something arrives half-way through with a beautifully sung chorus, more thundering drums, slightly menacing guitars.... the songs title repeated and repeated. An quieter, trumpet enhanced instrumental break before everything goes very loud indeed for the songs close. Everyone playing together - a thrilling Spectoresque wall of noise. The song that follows this fairly startling opener is the eloquent and keyboard enhanced 'Seeing Other People'. Wordy, poetic lyrics, revelling in real life, real-people detail. Happy guitars enter for the always melodic 'Me And The Major'. A great set of lyrics, a really funny story. The music is fast, performed well and again, keyboards enhance the overall sound nicely. 'Like Dylan And The Movies' is a perfectly structured song. The vocals, Stuart harmonizing with himself are truly gorgeous and affecting. A great guitar led instrumental break comes in, the keyboards sound haunting and beautiful. A Cello? Yeah. It's a wonderful mix of instruments, a wonderful song, no question.

    'Fox In The Snow' makes me cry. Every time. EVERY TIME!!! It's just so beautiful, so sad but strangely comforting and uplifting. The guitars are suitably delicate and beautiful, the vocals tender and compassionate. It follows on from the likes of 'We Rule The School' on 'Tigermilk' but is far more accomplished and moving. A touch of genius, violins, those lovely lilting guitars. 'Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying' follows on from 'I Don't Love Anyone' on 'Tigermilk'. Self-depreciating but very funny lyrics, a happy, impossibly happy musical track - another perfect little pop song. Pop song? Yeah, why not? The title song opens with the sound of children playing in a schoolyard before the now unmistakable sound of strummed Belle And Sebastian guitars come in over the top. A beautiful little Piano line, more eloquent and poetic lyrics, more lovely vocal harmonies. 'Mayfly' is short and sweet, 'The Boy Done Wrong Again' desolately sad with alternate vocal parts from Stuart and Stevie Jackson through it's introduction. The Belle And Sebastian guitars return for the sweet 'Judy And The Dream Of Horses' and we're done. Not a single bad song. NOT A SINGLE BAD SONG!! Stuart Murdoch wrote the entire set, and he did marvellously.

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    Readers Comments

    Jonathan Richard Roseveare jrr1@ukc.ac.uk
    I have all their stuff and honestly think this is over-rated compared with Tigermilk. I just think tracks 6 and 7 aren't particularly strong although it does have my favourite B&S song on it in 'Mayfly'. Still a good album then but I prefer Tigermilk.

    Ben P bpick99@hotmail.com
    This is undoubtedly their finest hour. As you said, NOT A SINGLE BAD SONG!! I'll go one further and say that no song is less than brilliant, because all the melodies are great, and the lyrics are even better. I think Stuart may have succeeded in singing the saddest song with 'The Boy Done Wrong Again.' For me, this is a rare example of an album that I can listen to every day and not tire of. I can't think of any higher praise to give it. One of my top 10 albums ever!

    Akis Katsman watta502@yahoo.gr
    I really, really like this album. It reminds me a lot of Nick Drake's 'Bryter Layter' because it's very beautiful and innocent. I also like all the songs, my favourites being "Like Dylan In The Movies" and "The Fox In The Snow". 'If You're Feeling Sinister' is maybe my favourite 90's album and one of my favourite albums ever! 10/10

    John john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    "Fox In The Snow" is a charmer. Stevie at his best. Fucking great album. It took me quite a while to appreciate it's charms, but it's really starting to grow on me now. 9/10.

    Stephen Murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    Their finest hour. Stars of Track & Field alone is a stone cold masterpiece. This is the template and benchmark by which twee indie pop must be judged. Finishing on Judy & the Dream of Horses is like having your heart broken over and over again. A sugar-coated, bittersweet, thoughtful, literate, bedsit-tastic delight.

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    Dog On Wheels*****
    Dog On Wheels / The State I Am In / String Bean Jean/ Belle & Sebastian

    One day Belle And Sebastian came on the radio. I think it was 'The State I Am In', the song I heard that day. She had just left me so I was feeling rather sorry for myself. It seemed so beautiful this music should come on my radio that precise moment. I was so pleased when I saw it in the shops! I knew nothing about Belle And Sebastian. I paid over my pennies and took it home with me. So, I did have something to take home after all. Something to cuddle up to and learn from. The Simon And Garfunkel influences were subtle and gorgeous. The lyrics deadly in their eloquence. 'String Bean Jean' was a simple little song and I think that's what I needed to hear that particular day.

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    awomanontheedge HistoricRocker@aol.comDon't really have much to say on this record, it's just one of those that you'd be happy to wake up to

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    Lazy Line Painter****
    Lazy Line Painter Jane / You Made Me Forget My Dreams / Photo Jenny A Century Of Elvis

    She was up and down both in weight and as a friend. She was up and down and I was up and down and here was a new Belle and Sebastian single! The title track sounded so full of life! Instruments everywhere so I couldn't help but smile. I told her how good I thought it was. She didn't care one way or the other. We had tea later as 'A Century Of Elvis' came on. The guitars made me grin. I hugged her and everything was happening again.

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    3 6 9 Seconds Of Light****
    A Century Of Fakers / Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie / Beautiful / Put The Book Back On The Shelf

    'A Century Of Fakers' brought back nostalgic memories of the time I first heard 'A Century Of Elvis'. The same music but with singing this time and beautiful harmonies. We were not quite in harmony - arguing, leaving each other and both unwell. Still, I loved her. Belle and Sebastian were now a private pleasure.

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    The Boy With The Arab Strap ( 1998, UK pos 12 )
    It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career / Sleep The Clock Around / Is It Wicked Not To Care / Ease Your Feet In The Sea / Summer Wasting / Seymour Stein / Space Boy Dream / Dirty Dream Number Two / Boy With The Arab Strap / Chickfactor / Simple Things / Rollercoaster Ride

    Following 'If You're Feeling Sinister' Belle And Sebastian released a trio of EP's, the last of which finally broke the group into the UK top forty. This album followed suit, reaching a peak chart position of number 12! Another first for the group ( bar 'A Century Of Elvis' ) was the utilization of other group members to 'help' out Stuart Murdoch with the song-writing. This has become something of a bone of contention amongst fans. It provides variety, but when Stuart could produce ( and perform ) the version of 'The State I Am In' that appears on 'Dog On Wheels' all by himself and make it a true Belle And Sebastian career highlight.... Well, more on the other writers later. We open with the quiet, almost beautiful 'It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career'. Yes, it's quiet. Other B&S songs have been quiet, but always offering something in the way of a hook to compensate. This has nothing bar the lyrical content. Well obviously, there is some music there too, but it doesn't amount to anything, certainly not when compared to the vast majority of the previous album. 'Sleep The Clock Around' is good though, an updating of the Belle And Sebastian sound ( by dint of 'futuristic' sounding keyboards ) that works well. Cellist Isobel Campbell writes and sings the bitter-sweet pop of 'Is It Wicked Not To Care'. Her voice is slightly weak but it's a good enough melody and performed well by the group. A couple of Stuart Murdoch ( still a caretaker for a church in Glasgow, by the way! ) songs follow and they are both upto the standard of much of 'If You're Feeling Sinister'. 'Ease Your Feet Into The Sea' is typical, beautiful lyrics and vocals over sweetly strummed guitars and violin embellishments. The two minute long 'A Summer Wasting' just doesn't need to be any longer! The guitar jangles and shines, the lyrics are more eloquent Stuart Murdoch poetry - the essence and soul of Belle And Sebastian.

    Stevie Jackson writes and sings both 'Chickfactor' and 'Seymour Stein'. The former is a piano ballad that lacks a little in the sparkle, although the latter 'Seymour Stein' is great! A beautiful melody and the lyrics are fantastic. Lyrics telling the story of how B&S were due to meet record boss Seymour Stein. Attention to real life detail in the lyrics, the kind which Stuart Murdoch employs so well in his songs. The Piano and organ combine well for the musical track with violin and cello mixed in there somewhere too. Just a beautiful song, a true highlight of this album. 'A Space Boy Dream' sees Stuart David ( who would leave after this album ) produce a spoken work piece with 'moody' dance-related music underneath. It is truly forgettable and obvious filler. 'Dirty Dream Number Two' and the title song get things mostly back on track. The type of wall of noise used well on the lead track from the 'Lazy Line Painter' EP is re-employed here. Happy sounding, complete with handclaps, organ, guitars and bass. Two Stuart Murdoch songs close the album yet only 'Rollercoaster Ride' really hits home of the pair, a simple song with delicate and sweet vocals.  <

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    Flukey l.ryan@pleanala.ieHey, very impressive site, I can see alot of work went into it but how could you review Boy With the Arab Strap without mentioning the title track in the review. Maybe it must just be me but I think it is one of the most beautiful songs ever, musically and for lyrical content. What a song!

    Akis Katsman watta502@yahoo.gr
    I like that one almost as much as 'Sinister'. It's very beautiful too, plus it has my favourite B&S song ever, "Seymour Stein". Another favourite of mine is the gorgeous "Is It Wicked Not To Care?". The only questionable song here is "A Space Boy Dream" but even that one has a good atmosphere. I'd give this album a 10/10 too!

    danny danny@leftoffthedial.com
    I'm glad you guys agree that Seymour Stein is brilliant. At first, I like many hated the songs without Stuart singing. Especially this one. Until I made sense of the lyrics. It's so catered to music dorks it's insane! No wonder many people hate it. Sly references to Johnny Marr and Sire records. Belle and Sebastian is the prefect fuel for the Indie dork in all of us.

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    Modern Rock Song***
    This Is Just A Modern Rock Song / I Know Where The Summer Goes / The Gate / Slow Graffiti

    'Slow Graffiti' was sad sounding and made me cry and smile in equal measure. She had left me for good now. The title song was slow and I never did like it all that much. 'The Gate' was something I could smile along with. I wondered where the summer had gone. Where had the summer gone? I remembered one day we went on a trip to The Lake District. It was the last time we'd truly been happy together.

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    Legal Man**
    Legal man / Judy is a dick slap / Winter wooskie

    Everything changes and this rather unmoved me and I wondered hadn't I best just get used to it all? Nothing was the same anymore. I moved on to nothing in particular and met a few different people. There was ugliness now. I had developed a temper. I kept it to myself in-between bouts of not eating food.

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    Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant ( 2000, UK pos 10 )
    I Fought In A War / The Model / Beyond the Sunrise / Waiting For The Moon To Rise / Don't Leave The Light On, Baby / The Wrong Girl / Nice Day For A Sulk / Chalet Lines / Woman's Realm / Family Tree / There's Too Much Love

    This release was at a crucial moment in the commercial career ( if such a thing exists ) of Belle And Sebastian. This was the moment of truth. Would they make it big? Well, er, no. They didn't make it big. A bunch of people rushed out to buy this in the UK ensuring a top ten album placing. I feel rather upset this turned out to be their first exposure to Belle And Sebastian rather than the superior 'If You're Feeling Sinister'. The production budget has increased again. Everything has a certain gloss over the top of it, which perhaps isn't necessary. Still, we get a classic Stuart Murdoch song to open. 'I Fought In A War' is the sort of song that should have been present all throughout this album. Little jingle jangle guitars, Stuart harmonizing with himself on the vocals, a string section, much dramatic atmosphere. A brilliant set of lyrics, and we're done. A fantastic song! 'The Model' opens with harpsichord, which is an unusual touch. Stevie Jackson sings certain sections, the whole has a momentum but ultimately falls just short of being a B&S classic. It's still mighty fine, but it never quite takes off, never quite reaches your heart. One of the most universally despised Belle And Sebastian songs arrives next. 'Beyond The Sunrise' has a Leonard Cohen feel about it, and seems to do very little. We get a little folky guitar, a deep baritone vocal - and not much else. I quite like this song, though! It's nice and mellow and certainly nothing offensive. When Isobell Campbell arrives to sing a verse, in such a soft voice she barely appears to be present at all, when the harmonica comes in, all country-western..... beautiful, utterly beautiful 'monk' like choral harmonies.... This is good stuff!

    'Waiting For The Moon To Rise' is a Sarah Martin song and rather good but for the lead vocals which are a touch too much on the light side. Still, Stuart Murdoch returns ( belle and sebastian fans : "yay!" ) for the sometimes startling, always interesting keyboard led epic that is 'Don't Leave The Light On Baby'. And, what's this? Further proof the other members of Belle And Sebastian can also pen a song or two? Yes, sir! 'The Wrong Girl' is a collaboration between Stevie and Stuart and is rather wonderful. It's the nearest this album comes to a pop song of truly memorable melody. 'The Chalet Lines' is a perfect piece of Stuart Murdoch beautiful desolation, 'Nice Day For A Sulk' nicely lilting. 'Women's Realm' comes across as a rather unnecessary 'repetition' of the title song from 'Boy With The Arab Strap', the closing two songs here are entirely forgettable. So, what do we have? Well, overall this is another good Belle And Sebastian record, that's all and that's pretty much it.

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    Readers Comments

    hugues o.hugues@wanadoo.fr
    I used to like Belle & Sebastian a few years ago, with their first three albums ("Tigermilk" heard in 1999 after). I completely changed my mind after this one, and my opinion simply became more tough and tough again about this over-rated band. This band is just what's wrong with pop music in Europe, and I never could get the Smiths nor the Go-Betweens before them, either. Concerning Belle & Sebastian: they made four times the same album, with the same trumpet solo on some songs. They are way too wise and precocious, they're definitely not artists to my taste. Never compare them to Love, please. Arthur Lee was a genius. Belle & Sebastian would need several lives to get as many ideas as had Lee & McLean on Love's three albums, if not only "Forever Changes". Belle & Sebastian is a huge mistake! Wilco is great. Ron Sexsmith is a real talent. Stuart Murdoch is just among these students who think we can make good music at doing formally perfect. He's not the only one, actually. There are many other pop acts, especially in Europe, which are as sleek, refined, precious and flat. Sorry, just my opinion!

    Akis Katsman watta502@yahoo.gr
    I like this record much more than most people. I'm glad someone else likes "The Chalet Lines". It's very melancholic but sweet at the same time, good to listen while watching the sunset. As for the album, highlights include the opener "I Fought In A War" (one of B&S best songs ever!), "Family Tree" and "Waiting For The Moon To Rise". The female voices sound very pretty. But I like every song here! Except maybe "Beyond The Sunrise", that one is pretty boring and comes very close to being a stinker. I think it's a very good album, even if not a total masterpiece like the two previous ones.

    stephen murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    I adore Bell and Seb. I am one of those misfits they write about, with a satchel full of crap poems anfd a bad hairdo. The first three albums are flawless, but Sinister is the best. This one was a dissapointment to me. I think 'The Model' with its postmodern mention of Lisa from '3,6,9...' is one of the better songs. I actually think that the first two and the last two songs of Fold... taken alone, would make the best B&S EP ever. Family Tree is gorgeous but There's Too Much Love! It's in my top 5 B&S songs ever! When those strings hit, it's like watching a bra come off for the first time. Goosebumps and trouser tangoes. This is a flawed album. B&S works with wee Stu in charge and does not work as a collective because evryone's material is weakened in the process. A Stevie Jackson Solo album? That would be interesting, but his national-health sixties poses just piss me off. Beyond the sunrise by the way: worse B&S song ever. period. Stinks the album out. If you have to skip ! a track every time, the album fails. I miss Isobel though. I kissed her, once.

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    Jonathan David****
    Jonathan David / Take your carriage clock and shove it / Loneliness of a middle distance runner

    Friendship is a wonderful thing. She phoned me and we had a great conversation and I knew we were both at peace. The loneliness is still there but I do have people to turn to. I wish someone new would come along and say how handsome I've been. 'Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner' would be something to share with them. We are nearly in the present again. I am nearly living in the real world. I don't know anyone called Jonathan David though.

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    I'm Waking Up To Us***
    I'm Waking Up To Us / I Love My Car / Marx and Engels

    'I love my Carl, I love my Brian, my Dennis and my Al....' Well, how could I not love a song and any single release containing a lyric such as that?! Different style vocals on the lead track which manages to be another strong Belle And Sebastian single. Neither of the other two songs are classic but both are better than any of the songs from 'Legal Man' and bode well for a forthcoming album release.

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    Storytelling 7 ( 2002, UK pos 26 )
    Fiction / Freak / Early Letterman / Fuck This Shit / Night Walk / Jersey's Where It's At / Black And White Unite / Consuelo / Toby / Storytelling / Class Rank / I Don't Want To Play Football / Consuelo Leaving / Wandering Alone / Mandingo Cliche / Scooby Driver / Fiction (reprise) / Big John Shaft

    This record features music and songs recorded for the Todd Solondz movie 'Storytelling'. Which, I know absolutely nothing about! Film making being of the nature it is, a whole six minutes of music from a total of thirty five contained on this record ended up in the movie. But, we get instrumentals, a couple of snatches of dialogue. We get five Belle And Sebastian songs proper to enjoy. But first, I have a complaint. Ok, it's a sound-track album, not an album proper. But why four instrumentals and two pieces of dialogue to open the record? We've got to wait some eleven minutes before we reach a vocal tune? Still, the opening 'Fiction' is a thing of beauty, all Piano and strings and effectively subtle guitar. 'Fuck This Shit', given it's title is surprisingly one of the most beautiful of all the instrumentals here. Quiet Piano, great harmonica, melodic and rolling bass and more delicate, effective guitar. The strings come in, the melody picked out by the harmonica replaces what would have been a vocal melody I suppose - and the whole thing becomes an extremely listenable and very effective piece of instrumental music. More beauty for the atmospheric Piano and bass led 'Night Walk' which certainly puts pictures in your mind, whether you've seen the 'Storytelling' film or not. The 'Jerseys Where It's At' dialogue breaks the record sonically to lead into the first of the vocal tunes, the first 'song-proper'. And, was it worth that eleven minute wait? Was it? Let's see here now.

    Guitars! Stuart Murdoch on vocals! Stevie Jackson on alternate vocals! Simon And Garfunkel harmonies! A nicely shuffling rhythm. Those harmonies!! I really love it when Stuart comes in to sing the same line as Stevie, but a few beats behind, repeating the line over the top of Stevie singing the same line. It's a lovely effect that works very well. It's a beautiful song, and a bona-fide Belle And Sebastian classic. Another brief piece of film dialogue leads into the Sarah Martin sung title song. She struggles a bit with the vocals here but the music is prime Belle And Sebastian that recalls much of the 'Boy With The Arab Strap' record. Stuart Murdoch performs 'I Don't Want To Play Football' - the vocals are classic, emotionally affecting Stuart vocals, the lyrics classic Stuart lyrics. It's a shame the song is less than a minute long, though. 'Consuelo Leaving' is beautiful and uses the vocal melody from 'I Don't Want To Play Football' before turning into Belle And Sebastian's very first foray into Jazz music! A little samba rhythm and it's all done very well actually. The strings come back in to reprise the 'I Don't Want To Play Football' melody and then things get truly orchestral to close. Yeah, it's good! Stevie Jackson gets his turn to shine through the storming Spanish flavoured 'Wandering Alone'. It's got a strong melody, Isobel backs him up with harmonies and it's a very good song.

    'Scooby Driver' is the closest Belle And Sebastian have ever got to producing a punk song. It's fast, furious and thrashy. A brief burst of harmonies provide sunshine in the middle of the song - we get a repetition of the opening verse and that's it. Just over a minute long, punk rock! Ok, so it's Belle And Sebastian, it isn't Punk Rock - but this is interesting stuff. Not all of the instrumentals that pad out the album can be classified as interesting, fair enough, but the closing Stuart Murdoch song 'Big John Shaft' joins 'Black And White Unite' in being a good Belle And Sebastian song proper. 

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    Dear Catastrophe Waitress ( 2003, UK pos 21 )
    Step Into My Office, Baby / Dear Catastrophe Waitress / If She Wants Me / Plazza New York Catcher / Asleep On A Sunbeam / I'm A Cuckoo / You Don't Send Me / Wrapped Up In Books / Lord Anthony / If You Find Yourself Caught In Love / Roy Walker / Stay Loose

    It's good, but it's not right. Yeah, some reviews i've read of this latest offering from dear Belle And Sebastian have claimed this album works because they've managed to integrate the various band members more successfully into a whole. That conclusion is incorrect. The reason this album works is because band leader Stuart Murdoch writes and sings all but two or three of the twelve songs himself. He's not taken such control since 'If You're Feeling Sinister'. Therefore it's no real surprise to me that this record is the groups best since then. I'm not trying to denigrate the other band members contributions, not at all, they've become a charming part of the groups overall appeal. Yet, it's still patently clear where the bulk of the talent lies. Let's take, ooh, 'Plazza, New York Catcher'. It's a good song to take, because it's solo acoustic guitar plus Stuart Murdoch. How you imagine a very damn good solo album from said person would sound like. How would it sound then?? Well, up there with Dylan for writing. That may seem a controversial statement, but I believe passionately in new talent. Belle And Sebastian aren't exactly new anymore of course, but that doesn't matter.

    Not new, but they do manage to break small amounts of new ground for themselves. The opening 'Step Into My Office Baby' as well as the title song, display previously unimagined amounts of Belle And Sebastian happiness, humour and poppiness. I'm not sure how correct that last word is exactly, but nevermind! Here is a Belle And Sebastian album you don't have to be an indie-nut to enjoy. Overall, we don't get quite the same devastating beauty or peerless writing that decorated the 'If You're Feeling Sinister' record, but we do still get a pretty solid and excellent set of songs. Sigh. Oh yeah, Trevor Horn, of Seal and Tatu production 'fame', alarmingly gets his hands on our dear sweet Belle And Sebastian. Thankfully, bar the better arrangements ( perhaps ) and the poppier edge to many of the songs - there's no real difference at all to the sound of the group. The closing 'Stay Loose' clearly nods towards Mr Horns work with The Buggles but I don't mind that at all. It's a charming, slightly silly closing song. Elsewhere, 'You Don't Send Me' is groovy, handclaps and all. 'Wrapped Up In Books' incorporates a very Byrds sounding jangle to the guitar. The rhythm of the song is urgent, very akin to earlier Belle And Sebastian. The chorus is swoon-some. The song is of course, a Stuart Murdoch song. Well, what else did you expect?

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    Readers Comments

    Aaron glenn@mitchell1818.fsnet.co.uk
    Hm this album is a tad up beat compared to the last Fold your hands.... Real album and for that it suffers but there sill are some real gems the upbeat ones are still very good indeed because the writing is superb and production as always is awesome but I prefer the more beautiful down beat minimalist songs from previous albums that’s why ‘lord Anthony’ is the best song on this album/ but then the best of the rest are ‘stay loose’ wrapped up in books’ Piazza, New York Catcher, WOW that’s a good song I agree that the statement of feeling sinister on this review don’t know if I can say it’s the best but sill 8/2 maybe 9 in time is the right score

    Stephen Murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    A dissapointment this. Too shiny by half and neither fey and indie (as of yore) nor pop enough (as promised). Lord Anthony and If You Find Yourself Caught in Love are delicious but some of the songs sound like a B&S cover band or Mitch Ben ripping the piss on the Now Show. WHAT is Roy Walker all about? Is it just me, or do you miss Bel's soft vouce and sonorous cello? Ah Bel. I kissed her once don't y'know?

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    Push Barman To Open Old Wounds ( 2005, UK pos 40 )
    Dog On Wheels / The State I Am In / String Bean Jean / Belle And Sebastian / Lazy Line Painter Jane / You Made Me Forget My Dreams / A Century Of Elvis / Photo Jenny / A Century Of Fakers / Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie / Beautiful / Put The Book Bacl On The Shelf / This Is Just A Modern Rock Song / I Know Where The Summer Goes / The Gate / Slow Graffiti / Legal Man / Judy Is A Dick Slap / Winter Wooksie / Jonathan David / Take Your Carriage Clock And Shove It / Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner / I'm Waking Up To Us / I Love My Car / Marx And Engels

    A compilation of all the singles and EPs Belle And Sebastian released for the Jeepster label, and somewhat unjustly, not in every single home on the planet. Much of the groups best material is here, especially on the first disc of this marvellous 2cd compilation. For 40/50 something Simon And Garfunkel fans, 'Dog On Wheels' will raise plenty of smiles. I bought it when it first came out way back when and I remember thinking 'wow'. That was it, just 'wow'. 'The State I Am In' sent me even further into space, so high I was flying with the comets and wondering if Belle And Sebastian really were going to turn out to be as good as The Smiths or Felt. The first EP was all precious tweeness but married to genuinely fantastic songs, enough to elevate Belle and Sebastian above the likes of pretty much everybody that had ever tried to follow in the footsteps of Felt or The Smiths. Well, Tindersticks i'll throw in here. Belle And Sebastian are mighty, a mighty band. They've stuck around and built up a bloody brilliant body of work and 'Push Barman...' will stand alongside 'Absolute Classic Masterpieces' by their ( and my ) beloved Felt in years hence. Still, onwards we go. 'Lazy Line Painter' from the groups 2nd EP added a Spectorish wall of sound and a female Scottish country singer to sing the Cher parts. The song wasn't a cover of a Sonny and Cher track, by the way. I'm just hoping everybody will smile and know what I mean. Even supporting EP tracks such as 'Photo Jenny' are superb. 'Photo Jenny' contains a glorious mid section, 'how will I get one.....' repeated and rises until harmonies arrive from the angels. The third EP contained 'A Century Of Fakers', still to this day possibly the groups finest song. How can I describe it? It makes The Smiths seem like a regular pop group, it's a song that exists in an alternate universe where Felt, rather than The Beatles, are universally acclaimed as being the most important and popular group of all time. Oh, check out the ultra lovely hidden track at the end of disc one for utter beauty.

    The songs comprising the first disc were released in a twelve month period spread over 3 EPs. The 2nd CD on this compilation is slightly more inconsistent than the first, covering as it does a wider time-span. 'This Is Just A Modern Rock Song' is great when they play it live, not quite as good in the studio, 'I Know Where The Summer Goes' and 'The Gate' are absolutely giddy and glorious, the former a lovely ballad and the latter a ultra fine pop song of the highest order. 'Legal Man' saw Belle And Sebastian become less precious, as if Felt had suddenly lurched towards the mainstream without becoming Denim. A sing-a-long chorus, sung by kids. I wonder if it was the same kids that sang on 'Another Brick In The Wall' by Pink Floyd? Well, obviously it wasn't, but how great would it be if it was?! 'Legal Man' was the groups most throwaway single to date, even the two supporting tracks didn't amount to much. The 'Legal Man' single, title track excepted, is the only reason 'Push Barman' doesn't get the perfect 10. Because, moving on, 'Jonathan David' has a charm that only repeated listenings can reveal, in a good way. 'Take Your Carriage Clock And Shove It' contains some lovely string parts and is generally lovely and 'Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner' is a slice of utter genius writing right up there with 'A Century Of Fakers', 'There Is A Light' or 'Primitive Painters'. Sigh. The closing three tracks vary from pop to typically lovely Belle And Sebastian ballad through to the quirky 'I Love My Car' which reveals that Belle And Sebastian are fans of The Beach Boys. Hooray for that, I say.

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    Readers Comments

    Jude Bolton spikeedogmangowoof@hotmail.comHooray for this review! The band's best songs are indeed located on this collection. I didn't feel the need to comment on each EP individually, because I don't own each EP individually. String Bean Jean, Dog on Wheels, Beautiful, Lazy Line Painter Jane, and countless others... and how about that little encore piece at the end of disc 1? "Belle and Sebastian on the radio making songs for lovers...." Oh man, can't wait to see them live and read the review for the new album.

    John john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    One of the most vital collections of hard to find type material ever released. An absolute must buy. Certainly can't accuse the band of cashing in on the fans, as the intentions behind this album are 101% sincere, unlike certain other mid 90s groups releasing b-side collections about 5 minutes into their career...... 10/10.

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.comMy 1st belle and sebastian album !! - was curious as they hail from my hometown and theres a definite melancholy to their sound thats VERY glasgow - impossible to explain unless youre scottish but true. These guys have heard love,late period kinks,smiths,the velvets mellower stuff and a touch of felt and the beach boys for sure. Well impressed with the songwriting - dog on wheels,a century of fakers, this is just a modern rock song, lazy line painter jane and the very "austin powers" 60s kitsch of legal man !! Theres just a great sense of a band with a vision here and special sounding songs to back it up . Occasionally its a bit too twee , but overall well worth the purchase . "you made me forget my dreams" is just lovely , time kind of suspends when you hear it . along with mogwai primal scream,travis,the view,1990s,camera obscura,malcolm middleton and the mighty teenage fanclub scotland is still proving a great place for music .

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    The Life Pursuit 8 ( 2006, UK pos 8 )
    Act Of The Apostle Part 1 / Another Sunny Day / White Collar Boy / The Blues Are Still Blue / Dress Up In You / Sukie In The Graveyard / We Are The Sleepyheads / Song For Sunshine / Funny Little Frog / To Be Myself Completely / Act Of The Apostle Part 2 / For The Price Of A Cup Of A Tea / Mornington Crescent

    We knew all along that Belle & Sebastian could write cracking pop songs, didn't we? The signs were there, from 'Dog On Wheels' through to 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' and beyond. Yet, Belle & Sebastian with their indie ideals cloaked their tunes in mysticism. The art and the paupers. Post the Trevor Horn produced 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress', the guys find themselves back in the UK top ten for the first time since 2000. That's something in itself. They not so much reinvented themselves as merely changed their production values. They even did this before, on 'Fold Your Hands Child', so why are the indie kids crying into their beers so? Why be angry, they've hardly sold out, their songs remain the same at heart as they always did, albeit it with an emphasis towards the poppy rather than the obscure. Nothing wrong with that when the pop songs are as fine as they are here. I'll name a few, 'Funny Little Frog', 'Another Sunny Day' and 'White Collar Boy'. The latter is one of the funkiest things the band has done, yet remembers to include pop gold along the way. It doesn't sound clumsy like the bands previous attempts at, er, indie-funk? 'Another Sunny Day' I can't possibly resist. You know I love The Byrds, right? Well, 'Another Sunny Day' has a continuous jingly ringing guitar and when the lyric mentions bells the guitars ring properly like bells should do. Yet, guitar obviously. The Byrds? There's a country influence in here somewhere, too. Ah, 'Funny Little Frog', another perfectly crafted, clever and intelligent pop tune. Plus, 'To Be Myself Completely' has to be a Belle And Sebastian classic, perfectly self depreciating lyrics married to a perfectly simple tune and a glorious break. A break! A middle eight!! It's all golden joy.

    Yet and but. There's nearly always a yet and a but, because so few albums get a 10/10, you know? Despite attempts at varying the sound across the albums thirteen tracks and forty nine minutes, even the soul-pop of 'Song For Sunshine' still seems to be cloaked in the exact same production and sound as every other song. They apparently whittled the 13 songs down from a mindboggling twenty nine or something, which they were going to release as a mammoth double CD album. I'm glad they didn't, as it's like eating too much sugar at times, 'The Life Pursuit'. Still, it remains a glorious listen at times, yet, and shoot me down all you 'Life Pursuit' lovers, I prefer 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress'. I can only ever just be myself completely.

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    Readers Comments

    stephen murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    How old can you get and still write and sing as if you are in the sixth form art room, hiding from the rugger boys? This is an album of pieces, for me. Dress up In You, Funny Little Frog, To Be Myself Completely - these are all delicious. But all the funk and fuss and wah-wah is terrible. Belle & Seb do indie bedsit romance better than any other but the sixties/seventies stuff just ends up sounding like sh*tty pastiche. Pleas guys. 8 good tracks next time, not a patchwork of paradise and pants. learn from (the masters) Tindersticks. Do one thing well with all your heart.

    Jude Bolton spikeedogmangowoof@hotmail.com
    I don't like it as much as DCW either. This review was clouded in mystery for me: on the New Releases page it was descibed as a 'huge disappointment', then on Adrian's stereo it was among other things 'a greatest hits set' (bar a few songs). Of course, Belle & Sebastian haven't sold out. Throughout their career, however, they haven't improved greatly in their songwriting and impeccable arranging skills. They were great at the start and still are pretty much just as great. Most of these songs actually kicked arse live, and it was only a relative disappointment to hear 8-9 songs from Pursuit and 2 from Sinister in the set. If you want to hear this album, buy the CD: it's worth it just for the Q & A with the bandmembers section of the liner notes.

    Si psi_fla@yahoo.com
    Adrian, I actually prefer this one mildly to DCW. It has a less inconsistent feel. Like DCW, it has its share of standouts (you didn't mention Sukie In The Graveyard or The Blues Are Still Blue, although you did mention Funny Little Frog) but unlike DCW, it doesn't go off the boil at the end. (I still maintain that DCW is great until the opening chords of Roy Walker.)

    Stephen Murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    Okay, Okay, I take it back. never review an album inside a month. Almost every song on this album has now grown on me and mellowed. The first 5 in a row are an embarrassment of riches. I think this is B&S's strongest album since IYFS (their second) which is only surpassed by the Jeepster EPs. It is miles better than DCW which although well produced is scatty and experimental (albeit with gems like Lord Anthony and If You Find yourself...). TLP sees the maturing of this experimentation and production into a gloriously rounded record. It has almost stopped sounding like B&S in a way and I am yearning for a Stuart Murdoch solo album, uncluttered by the other band member's writing. Can I just say that "Another Sunny Day" has restored my faith in the world and is my song of the MONTH. It is also the best i-pod song to cycle to ever! Try pushing off to the opening jangle and then flying downhill to the first falling cadence of Stuart#'s voice. It is heaven. Do it atr dawn! and believe... Sorry B&S. I spoke to soon (above).

    Jack jmichalko@o2.pl
    L.A. served them well!. It seems that guys know how to make a "really sunny music" and,in my opinion, they trying to cut themselves off from the brooding songs they`ve made supposedly for heartbroken teenagers in recent years. For me, "The Life P." is a successful incarnation of the Zombies`67 ["O&O"]. Proof? "To Be Myself.." "Another Sunny Day" or both "Act`s", for instance. Gosh, "Act II"`that-slow-swinging-part-of-the-song` is a vintage Argent&Blunstone`s, isn`t it?! "The Blues are still blue" is also a perfect song - but, god, is the Bolan who sings it?:) As a whole, i`d rate the "the Life" much highier than Adrian but, again, i`m bad with numbers...

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    Write About Love 7 ( 2010 )
    I Didn't See It Coming / Come On Sister / Calculating Bimbo / I Want The World to Stop / Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John / Write About Love / I'm Not Living in the Real World / Ghost of Rockschool / Read the Blessed Pages / I Can See Your Future / Sunday's Pretty Icons

    This time out our favourite indie-cult pop act go for a low-key, subtle sound free from obvious commerciality and sounding very late-eighties indie to my ears. The opener 'I Didn't See It Coming' is something of a modern-day classic in such a vein. You hear echoes of Sarah Records before the tune turns off towards a funkier climate two-thirds of the way through. It's an out and out Belle and Sebastian classic for me, recapturing much of the innocence of the 'If You're Feeling Sinister' era. The title track features vocals by Carey Mulligan and also charmingly sports a very Sixties Zombies style keyboard solo in the middle. 'Come On Sister' is a sparkling indie-pop gem and it's not til the 3rd song in we get a Stuart Murdoch penned composition. You do wonder sometimes whether Murdoch is trying to quit Belle and Sebastian by allowing the other members quite so much free-reign. It's something when tunes penned by other band members emerge the best, which is at least true of the three-song opening salvo 'Write About Love' begins with. Stevie Jackson pulls another rabbit out the hat to join his tune 'Come On Sister' with the happy late-sixties sunshine of 'Living In The Real World' whilst Stuart Murdoch gets Norah Jones to help him out on the rather dreary 'Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John'. Basically, when Belle and Sebastian are good, they are still very good indeed but four years since their last LP perhaps I was expecting a little more?

    There are a couple of wonderful Stuart Murdoch moments though. Well, of course there are. 'I Want The World To Stop' is a classic slice of the kind of writing, infused with both hope and sadness that Belle and Sebastian always do so well. It's classy and breezy and the lyrics and vocal hooks are all very memorable indeed. "Love and pain and sorrow, keep the band together" sings Stuart on the touching, acoustic backed 'Read The Blessed Pages' and you wonder why he hasn't released a solo LP yet. Well, for our retiring former Church caretaker was never an obvious front-man. I remember a one-off episode of The Tube that featured Belle and Sebastian alongside the grinning Fran Healy from Travis. Whilst Travis rode happily atop the britpop wave, Belle and Sebastian always appeared endearingly awkward about any kind of success they have enjoyed.

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    this page last updated 03/10/10

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