Reviews - Week 32


Belle & Sebastian

Dear Catastophe Waitress

Rough Trade

This long-awaited album is a new departure for this cult band. While very different from their previous work it is recognisably B&S with their Scottish lilt, storytelling lyrics , and the fragile harmonies. The production by Trevor Horn has given the album a slightly more poppy edge…

No sorry I can't do this. I love Belle & Sebastian and I can't analyse them in this way. But hey! This is friends of the heroes, we write about the things that we care about and how they effect our own lives, so let's start again…

Early on Monday the 6th of October 2003 a girl wearing a blue coat and shoulder bag with B&S badges pinned to it shuffled into a record shop. Shyly she picked up an orange coloured CD. Acutely aware of her badges she went to the counter to pay. She was shaking slightly with a mixture of excitement and nerves (and the cold weather).

The band is like that you see, they inspire fanaticism, encourage obsession and force people to fall in love with them. I'm quite sure that the girl in the duffel coat was not alone in experiencing the urge to make a special trip to buy the album the very day it was released. Long ago many fans fell in love with Belle and Sebastian albums which were quiet and tender. The early recordings had lyrics which broke people's heart's, and with time mended them once again. They seemed to have dropped to earth from another dimension.

On the number 85 bus the girl pulled put the CD and drew out the sleeve notes. Her heart skipped a beat, what if it wasn't there? She breathed normally, because of course it was.

The story that accompanies any B&S record is a crucial part of the enjoyment of the music. Maybe its because it offers a little insight into the lives of the band, or maybe its because it enforces the notion that the music is intertwined with everyday life, or maybe its just because sensible people like to read good stories.

The girl was anxious as she listened to the first couple of songs, they were unfamiliar. Brasher, stronger than the b&s that she knew. She thought they were good. She wasn't sure.

The new album is different. It is happier, maybe slightly less personal, slightly more abstract than those which broke hearts so long ago. Perhaps fans who first hear this album may be disappointed with the changes that they face, but most people will find it hard to dispute the fact that the band has grown stronger. Besides the album still manages to "lift two fingers to the air to linger there" to anyone who believes being different is in any way a crime.

A couple of listenings later and the girl sat in a dream like trance. "Wrapped up in books" was catchy music her smile. "Lord Anthony" made her ache as she listened to the fragile murmurings of Stuart Murdoch. And "I'm a cuckoo" made her laugh. She was in love all over again.

Rachel Queen



Previous Week Reviews Index All the bands we've written about Current Issue Next Week