This Is Just a Modern Rock Song is Belle & Sebastian’s fourth EP, released in 1998 on Jeepster Records.
The front cover features Alan Horne, founder of Postcard Records. It is the only Belle & Sebastian release never to be issued in North America, although all four tracks from the EP were later collected on the Push Barman to Open Old Wounds compilation.
A chart ruling was put into place shortly before the EP was released stating singles or EPs must contain no more than three tracks and last no longer than 20 minutes in total to be eligible for the UK singles sales chart, and thus – with its four tracks and carefully crafted total running time – This Is Just a Modern Rock Song failed to chart.
On-line review from allmusic:-
Belle & Sebastian still insist on making their single tracks all non-LP. They’re just about the last band left in England following this once-common practice. Compare their singles to the usual two-part LP single release designed only to fleece the faithful, and B&S look all the better, particularly since they insist on quality songs, not throwaways, remixes, or ambient doodling. Too bad their singles are all imports, as some Americans are missing out on more gold from the same vein as the last two LPs.
Perhaps this A-side would have made a better LP track; it’s a slowly developing, seven-minute epic, but it’s also an ever-building and comely track that gets more clever lyrically as it begins to bubble and grow brighter and louder. “This is just a modern rock song/This is just a sorry lament/We are four boys in our corduroys/We’re not terrific but we’re competent” is a sentiment belied by the beguiling textural base, an insistent acoustic in the background flanked by an even more obscured violin and muted trumpet in the further background. It swells and burbles until you don’t want it to end.
“I Know Where the Summer Goes” is more of the same fare, with the shadows filled this time with a mood organ, brushes on the drums, and an occasional tambourine. It’s lithe and rather sweetly, slowly catchy, with Stuart Murdoch’s up and down, nursery rhyme-like verse melody.
The Isobel Campbell-sung, more jaunty “The Gate” and the much better piano, cello, oboe, trombone, sax, and clipped-electric guitar backed “Slow Graffiti” both waft by with equal grace, and one regrets it when the 19 minutes are over.
This kind of unhurried, gentle, and friendly music is tailor-made for summertime. It’s fresh flowers on a morning walk, a breeze, and cloudless sky. It’s sublime.
I’m assuming the wiki entry meant to say ‘with its four tracks and despite its carefully crafted running time of 19:57…’ while I’ll sort of forgive the all music journalist for saying the band were from England. I’m surprised all these years on the review hasn’t been corrected.
This EP was released in December 1998, some three months after the LP The Boy With The Arab Strap had been lavished, quite rightly, with all sorts praise from all corners, and it is to the band and the label’s credit that they avoided the temptation of a lifting a single l to boost sales approaching the Xmas period, especially when so many of its tunes were tailor-made for radio play.
The title track is something of an epic, opening with as fragile and sad sounding a lyric as you can imagine and, as the all music review indicates, builds up majestically in sound and ambition while remaining totally in ballad time. It could very well be Tindersticks at their best…..
As for the other songs – I’m very fond of I Know Where The Summer Goes (another classic ballad) and The Gate, which has an upbeat country feel to the tune albeit it’s a reminder that Isobel Campbell‘s early vocal efforts were twee in the extreme. I’m not all that keen howver, on Slow Graffiti, but that’s as much to do with me feeling that it isn’t up to the quality of the tracks on The Boy….and this EP. It all feels a bit too much like a demo rather than a finished effort.
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – This Is Just A Modern Rock Song
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – I Know Where The Summer Goes
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – The Gate
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Slow Graffiti
Little did we know that it would be almost 18 months till the next release….