“I’m a Cuckoo” was Belle & Sebastian’s second single from Dear Catastrophe Waitress, released on Rough Trade Records in 2004. The track was produced by Trevor Horn. B-side “Stop, Look and Listen” merges into “Passion Fruit” at the end of a song – an instrumental piece which was performed live prior to its release. The front cover features Shantha Roberts. The track fared better in the UK singles chart than previous single “Step into My Office, Baby”, reaching #14. A reviewer described the track as being “like the indie pop version of Thin Lizzy”, who are also mentioned in the lyrics.
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“I’m a Cuckoo” is one of the highlights of Belle & Sebastian’s fabulous comeback of sorts, Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
Coming on like the indie pop version of Thin Lizzy (who get a mention in the lyrics), the song is a laid-back, strummy ballad with low-key harmony lead guitars, a wonderfully loping beat, a surprise horn section on the bridge, and lazily drawled lyrics. Easily the equal of anything they have done up to this point, it is a perfect example of the band’s rediscovered attention to arrangement and sound. The other tracks on this EP are no tossed-off space fillers, either. “Stop Look and Listen” is a rollicking, shaggy dog tale that evokes pleasant memories of the Mike Nesmith tunes in the Monkees discography before shifting to a weird surf/spy guitar coda. “(I Believe In) Travellin’ Light” was recorded during the same sessions as Dear Catastrophe Waitress with Trevor Horn at the helm. It is a short, sweet ballad with wonderful lead vocal harmonies that call to mind past B&S ballads, and it was probably left off the album for that reason alone. Luckily, it wasn’t buried in the vaults, and serves as a great EP track. The remix of “I’m a Cuckoo” by the Avalanches is a dazzling piece of musical Cuisinarting, juxtaposing Stuart Murdoch’s very precise vocal with the exuberant background chanting of the Southern Sudanese Choir. Add to that tribal percussion, chirping flutes, and a general sense of joy and you come up with something you rarely find in indie pop (or any other kind of music), a truly surprising and inventive song.
Chalk this EP up as a triumph for the band and for indie pop in general. Those who may think it is twee, parochial, or humorless only need give it a spin and they will be begging your pardon with many thanks for opening their ears and minds.
I’m in total disagreement with the reviewer as I think Cuckoo is just about the worst thing on the album but given that it was such a big chart hit, then I’m probably alone in holding that opinion. I also think the comments on the b-sides are well wide of the mark. Stop, Look and Listen has good intentions in that it sounds like nothing else the band had released up to that point but it is just too shambolic to be enjoyable, although I will concede that the instrumenatal that it runs into – Passion Fruit – is enjoyable and if played on its own would take quite a few guesses before anyone said it was being played by B&S. Travellin’ Light is NOT a patch on past B&S ballads…..it’s a bog-standard Stevie Jackson song but then again there’s a few who like that sort of thing.
Oh and I nver thought B&S would ever go down the remix route to pad out singles/EPs. The work by The Avalanches doesn’t rescue what I think is a crap song.
I suppose there’s one bright note. The single edit is almost 90 seconds shorter than the album version, so it’s over and done with that bit quicker.
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – I’m A Cuckoo (single edit)
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – I’m A Cuckoo (Avalanches remix)
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Stop, Look and Listen
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – (I Believe In) Travellin’ Light
File under teduous with a big raspberry from JC. (I’ll get lynched by the Glasgow indie crowd for such blasphemy).