AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #165 : BELLE & SEBASTIAN

Belle and Sebastian. I’m surprised that nobody has thrown in a guest ICA by now….and with one eye on the next again World Cup (to be held in 2020 and featuring ICAs #151 onwards), I thought I’d have a stab. I’m assuming most readers will be vaguely familiar with the back story of a band which has released nine studio albums, six EPs and 12 singles over the past 22 years. The mainstays throughout time have been Stuart Murdoch, Stevie Jackson, Chris Geddes, Richard Colburn and Sarah Martin, all of whom have been present since the very earliest of days, while Bobby Kildea has been with them since 2000. There are also three past members – Stuart David, Isobel Campbell and Mick Cooke – whose contributions were immense in establishing the band critically and commercially.

It was only when looking at the bigger picture did it hit me that in terms of quantity, and indeed quality, the golden era of the band was a relatively short spell from 1996-2003. There’s only been three albums over the past 15 years, all of which can be described as patchy, certainly in comparison to the early years. If you’re ever for an example of a band coasting somewhat and relying on past achievements, then this could be your landing point. It led me to put together a fully chronological ICA, based on the order in which the albums/EPs were released with one track per record. (It was also put together without me listening to any of the new material released across three EPs in recent months). Despite such a self-imposed restriction, it still hangs together really well…..

Side A

1. The State I Am In (from Tigermilk, released June 1996)

Things have changed a great deal in the music industry over the past 20-odd years and so it is unlikely given the growth of social media as a platform for a band to emerge in a similar way to Belle & Sebastian via a music course at a further education college in Glasgow. A demo recording of four songs, which itself would be released later on as the band’s fame grew, had led to the college record label, Electric Honey, funding 1000 copies of an album. It sold out almost instantly and the band signed to Jeepster Records who re-released Tigermilk in 1999. If you’re desperate to get your hands on one of the Electric Honey pressings of this outstanding record, expect to have to fork out somewhere in the range of £450, and even then, you won’t get a mint copy!

2. Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying (from If You’re Feeling Sinister, released November 1996)

If You’re Feeling Sinister was most people’s introduction to B&S, certainly outside of a few hundred folk in Glasgow. The formula adopted wasn’t much different from Tigermilk – back into the same small-scale studio with an approach to production which involved minimum overdubs. Jeepster Records were obviously delighted to get a facsimile of the debut, albeit this collection of songs was a notch-up on the debut given that Murdoch as a song-writer was growing in confidence and all of the band were improving as musicians and players. Without any imposed restrictions, there is no question that at least four, maybe even five of the songs on this album would make any ICA, but I’ve gone for the one which seemed to be the calling card….and which has an upbeat tune at odds with its title.

3. Dog On Wheels (from EP of the same name, released May 1997)

4. Lazy Line Painter Jane (from EP of same name, released July 1997)

The four-tracks that made up the demo had been released as Dog On Wheels EP in May 1997 and had sold enough copies to reach #59 in the UK singles chart, which was a remarkable outcome for a lo-fi recording by a relatively unknown band on a genuinely small and independent label with all the issues that were naturally present around pressing and distribution. The songs date from 1995 but the lead number somehow manages to convey more oomph than anything on the two albums thanks to Cooke’s trumpet playing being put front-centre.

The band was insistent that no singles should be lifted from the first Jeepster LP and instead agreed that they would work-up new songs for release as four-track EPs. Lazy Line Painter Jane utilises a guest vocalist in the shape of Monica Queen whose powerful and forceful delivery, recorded in a church hall, offers a tremendous contrast to the quiet and frail vocal of Murdoch. The result is an amazing duet that, vocally in style, brings to mind some of the great Country efforts involving Johnny Cash/June Carter and George Jones/Tammy Wynette while the swirling organ brings something new to the band’s sound, with the near six minutes being as far removed from ‘twee’ as can be imagined.

5. La Pastie de la Bourgeosie (from 3.. 6.. 9.. Seconds of Light, released October 1997)

Lazy Line Painter Jane had continued the upward projectory with a tantalising placement of #41 on the charts. It was just three months later, on 25 October 1997, the latest EP entered at #32….not bad for a band whose debut album just 15 months earlier had come out on a college label and whose follow-up, while selling in gradually increasing numbers, hadn’t shifted enough in any given week to scrape into the Top 100.

B&S were the new kids on the indie block and every magazine and broadsheet newspaper wanted a piece of them, and in particular their enigmatic frontman. The four songs on the EP typified the band at this stage of their career, with a folk-like number the lead track, a ballad and a spoken word effort sitting alongside a song that was a guaranteed floor-filler at your indie disco. With a lyric which references children’s author Judy Blume early on, namechecks a work by JD Salinger that is of most appeal to adolescents before ending with a mention of Jack Kerouac, the name most likely to be dropped casually into conversation by college/university students, La Pastie de la Bourgeosie is essentially an escapist number from the perspective of someone who has a romantic and unrealistic view of America…which is why so many journalists were desperate to land an interview with the frontman to probe him on where his ideas and inspirations came from me. Me? I’d have asked why do you write so many slow songs when you’ve killer tunes like this to unleash on the public.

Side B

6. The Boy With The Arab Strap (from album of the same name, September 1998)

I’m sure this will always be my favourite B&S song. Great tune and a great backstory in which Stuart Murdoch has a bit of fun at Aidan Moffat’s expense around the latter’s infatuation with a friend of Isobel Campbell – which Aidan himself had previously referred to in I Saw You (see yesterday’s song as short story entry).

7. This Is Just A Modern Rock Song (from EP of the same name, released December 1998)

This was the song that really made me think B&S were on the verge of real and sustainable greatness.  It deserves to be called epic, and not solely for the fact it is seven-plus minutes in length, but for the fact that  grows and develops from a softly-sung number by one man and his acoustic guitar into something which soars into the perfect anthem for this brand of indie-pop with its refrain of:-

This is just a modern rock song
This is just a sorry lament
We’re four boys in our corduroys
We’re not terrific but we’re competent

Four lines which seemed to capture everything I had loved about music since my teenage years.  Sadly, the EP marked the end of what I now regard as the golden and prolific era for the band in which forty-six pieces of music had been released across three albums and four EPs in less than two and half years. If they had called it a day there and then, they would still be recalled very fondly for the quality and bravado of their work.

8. Legal Man (from single of the same name, released May 2000)

Little did we know that the band would go into a bit of a hiatus after This Is Just A Modern Rock Song and that their return would be marked by the release of their first ever 45, with a lead song that was nothing like they had ever recorded before.  It also was the first release after the band had come to the attention of a wider public in a way that, all these years later, still seems surreal.

The Brit Awards 1999.  Belle and Sebastian are on the shortlist for ‘Best British Newcomer; despite the fact they were not a new act and that they disn’t have a major label lobbying on their behalf.  The ceremony, on 16 February, is broadcast live to a TV audience numbering more than 10million.  The category they were up for was one of the few not at the behest of a panel of judges, instead being given to the winner of a public vote via BBC Radio 1 that had been heavily promoted through tabloid newspapers, all of whom gave much space to a number of emerging pop acts who had enjoyed huge success in the singles charts with our Glasgwegian heroes getting just the merest of passing mentions. It was bizarre that were even on the shortlist given that, outside of evening shows, B&S would never have been played by the station…

Nobody had actually taken much notice that the award utilised a then largely untried method of electronic voting. The B&S fanbase mobilised as one, many of them making multiple votes through personal accounts, along with work/learning based e-mail addresses, leading to them winning the award to the astonishment of everyone concerned, including themselves.  It led a hilarious and rather childish reaction on the night from folk associated with the losing acts followed by the inevitable ‘Bell & Who?’ in the press the next day.

It took a long while for the band to release anything new – it was almost as if they wanted the fuss to die down and for them to get back out of the spotlight. The comeback 45 was a dramatic shift in sound and the upbeat nature led to a reasonable amount of daytime play. It also sold enough to hit the charts and give the band a debut appearance on Top of the Pops!

Legal Man was probably the first ever B&S purchase for many folk. If they liked what they heard and went out the following month to but the new LP, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant, then they were bound to be left scratching their heads given it was more whimsical and introspective than all of their previous work – indeed it was a record that many long-term fans felt was a backwards step that lacked the ambition and freshness of much that had come before and the first ever step backwards.

9. I’m Waking Up To Us (from single of the same name, released November 2001)

The 18 months between Legal Man and this single was a period where the band didn’t do much for me. Fold Your Hands… was a disappointment and the next again single Jonathan David was rescued only by decent b-sides. What came next was jaw-dropping, not so much for the music (although the heavy use of strings and woodwind took the pastoral feel to a whole new level) but the subject matter.

There’s break-up songs and then there’s this. The singer’s well-publicised romantic relationship with a fellow band member had run its course and he in all likelihood expected she would make things easy for everyone by taking her leave. It doesn’t happen and so he pens a really nasty lyric for the next single and insists on her performing on the record and taking part in all the accompanying promotional work, including TV appearances which must have been excruciating for her.

Cruel and humiliating for Isobel Campbell, she would gain a partial revenge the following year by quitting the band in the middle of a ground-breaking tour of the USA, and putting Stuart Murdoch on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It’s a song where the listener is best advised to put to one side the personal circumstances that gave rise to the work and enjoy it for what it is, and that’s an outstanding piece of music.

10. Stay Loose (from Dear Catastrophe Waitress, released October 2003)

The departures of Stuart David and Isobel Campbell, together with the lukewarm response to Fold Your Hands…, left the band at something of a crossroads. There were further faltering steps with Storytelling, an album released in June 2002 as the underwhelming soundtrack to an equally underwhelming movie. Looking back now, what happened next was quite drastic and almost a make-or-break period for the band with the decision to leave Jeepster and sign to Rough Trade and to agree to the label’s suggestion of bringing on board an experienced producer to help mould and shape the diverse sounds that everyone was bringing to the party.

There are some fans who were bitterly disappointed with the impact Trevor Horn had on the band but I’m someone who thinks Dear Catastrophe Waitress is among their strongest pieces of work. It was certainly a huge return to form, albeit with a sound that was more pop-orientated than before, and I don’t think any of the subsequent albums have over the past 15 years have been consistently as enjoyable a listen and it was a no-brainer to include something from the LP on the ICA.

There were a number of strong candidates but at the same time I was conscious that what had come before meant that the track from DCW would have to close the ICA and so the decision was, in a sense, made for me. Stay Loose, in the words of one reviewer at the time is ‘innovative, funky, and twinkling with subtle electronica that thrums with a newly found confidence’. It made a perfect ending to a wonderfully unpredictable album.

So that’s my stab at a B&S ICA…..anyone inspired to offer up a second volme with ten completely different songs?

JC

B&S ON SUNDAYS (14)

I’ve spent the last three Sundays bemoaning the horrendous drop in quality of the Belle and Sebastian singles/EPs in comparison to what they were producing back when they first appeared on the scene.  Parts 11-13 of this series took in the singles from The Life Pursuit, the LP released in 2006.  Part 14 is going to attempt to wrap up the past decade.

The reason for this is primarily that while singles have been released (as such), they’ve mostly been digital downloads and the idea behind this series was as much to draw attention to b-sides as anything else.

The tour to promote The Life Pursuit was an exhausting one. The first show of the year was in Glasgow on 15 January.  The last was in September in Dublin after almost 90 gigs across the globe, taking in Europe, USA, Australia and Japan, including all sorts of appearances at many of the summer festivals.  It would be four years before the band resurfaced, with the release, in September 2010, of the LP Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, again on Rough Trade. (although in the intervening period, a very welcome release in the shape of  The BBC Sessions, a compilation of unreleased recordings recorded between 1996 and 2001, kept fans happy).

The new album wasn’t preceded by any single. In the end, three tracks could be found outwith the album with Write About Love and I Want The World To Stop issued as digital downloads in October 2010 and February 2011. Then in July 2011, a very low-key and nowadays difficult to find EP was issued on 12″ vinyl by Rough Trade with these four tracks:-

Come On Sister (Tony Doogan Mix)
I Didn’t See It Coming (Richard X Remix)
I Didn’t See It Coming (Cold Cave Remix)
Blue Eyes Of A Millionaire

The last of these was the only new track (although it had been available as a bonus track for those who had bought the download of the album):-

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Blue Eyes Of A Millionaire

It’s a rather lovely little number and a real step up on the b-sides of the modern era.

The next few years were dominated by Stuart Murdoch dedicating himself to God Help The Girl and it wasn’t till January 2015 that new Belle and Sebastian material emerged. By this time, one of the key members, Mick Cooke, whose trumpet playing on the records and in the live setting really helped make things special, had departed the band to spend more time with his young family and do some film composing.

The new material was another LP, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, which was released on Matador Records. No singles were officially lifted from it although three tracks – The Party Line, Nobody’s Empire and Allie – had digital/promo releases. All of the available songs were made commercially available to fans, although you had to shell out for a limited edition, quadruple LP to get some otherwise unavailable extended mixes and these bonus tracks:-

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Born To Act
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Two Birds
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Piggy In The Middle
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – A Politician’s Silence

These would have made a marvellously diverse and entertaining 4-track EP almost up there with some of the really early material, albeit the songs demonstrate just how much Belle and Sebastian have evolved over the best part of 20 years.

And that seems a good way to draw this particular mini-series to an end.  Hope it’s been enjoyable for everyone somewhere along the line.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (13)

R-719154-1154161121.jpeg

From wiki:-

“White Collar Boy” (as shown on the album or “The White Collar Boy” as labeled on the single) is a song by Belle & Sebastian from their album The Life Pursuit. It was the third single from the album. The track was released on 26 June 2006 on Rough Trade Records, and was produced by Tony Hoffer. Upon release it failed to make the top 40, only charting at #45. It is the band’s first single not to make the Top 40 since “Lazy Line Painter Jane”. The model on the cover is Catherine Ireton, who later became the lead vocalist for Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl project.

It’s not that great an effort and I suppose most fans were a bit hacked off that the band now seemed to be like so many others, content with lifting a number of singles from an album rather than making each release seem precious or of value.

As with The Blues Are Still Blue, I didn’t buy this single at the time which came out, like the other two lifted from The Life Pursuit, on CD, 7″ vinyl and DVD.

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – The White Collar Boy

However, many years later I found a copy of the 7″ in a charity shop and picked it up.  I remember being gobsmacked at the choice of b-side, hoping somehow it wasn’t the Rod Stewart cover I dreaded it being.  But it was….

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Baby Jane

The original was awful and this was a million times worse.  I recall saying as much on the old blog and giving it a real kicking.  It provoked one of the most vitriolic comments I’ve ever been on the receiving end of, with the contributor accusing me of all sorts in terms of my taste in music and that I had no right nor was I qualified to pass judgement on the band.  Maybe it was a coincidence but that particular past was very soon afterwards the subject of a dmca notice – as indeed were a number of other more glowing posts that I’d given the band and within a few weeks the accumulation of such notices in such a short period of time led to google taking the decision to abruptly close down The Vinyl Villain without giving me the chance to salvage anything.

If I didn’t have any time at all for the cover version back then on, you can imagine my feelings now after all that!

I’ve tracked down the two tracks that were on the CD single.  Please excuse me if I simply post them without giving them a listen.

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Long Black Scarf
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Heaven In The Afternoon

See those posters who despaired of me persisting with the series of James and Cinerama singles??? They may have had a point. But I’ll keep going as we’re almost at the end.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (12)

Belle-blues

 

Last week, Martin left the following comment:-

“…..this song, funny little frog, might be the worst song ever recorded. by anyone. ever.”

Be prepared Martin.  Be prepared.

From wiki:-

“The Blues Are Still Blue” was the second single from the Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit. The track was released in April 2006 on Rough Trade Records, and is produced by Tony Hoffer. The single reached #25 in the UK singles chart.

The wiki entry is very abrupt in comparison to many of the other singles.  And no wonder, as it’s a travesty of a 45.

There were a number of possible candidates for the all-important follow-up single after the album had been released to mostly positive reviews, but very few of which considered it to be the band’s finest body of work.  It was generally considered to be a 3/3.5 out of 5 body of work which was, to the casual listener, probably a generous mark if you were going purely by The Blues Are Still Blue, with its nonsensical lyric set to a tune that seems a partial tribute to glam rock.

I just can’t find anything endearing about it.  All of which means I didn’t buy the 45 at the time  – again released in CD, 7″ and DVD format  – and so as I find the tracks out there on the internet, it will be the first time I hear them.

CD single:-

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – The Blues Are Still Blue

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

Strange that the track after which the album was named was reduced to being an obscure b-side when in fact it is much more obvious a B&S number than many of its contemporaries; it’s certainly better than the a-side

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Mr Richard

Please make it stop.  A pastiche of Paul Simon‘s Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard is what comes to mind.  Or a ‘comedy’ number by your in-house entertainment crew on an 1980s package holiday

7″ b-side

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Whiskey In The Jar

Limp and lifeless and pointless cover of a cover in a nod to the band referenced in I’m A Cuckoo.  Oh dear.

The DVD had a live version of Roy Walker, again taken from the Botanic Gardens gig of June 2012.  I can’t be bothered to track it down.

Strange how the band were now more popular than ever but the new material was sadly lacking……

B&S ON SUNDAYS (11)

FunnyLittleFrog

From wiki:-

“Funny Little Frog” was the first single lifted from Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit. The track was released in January 2006 on Rough Trade Records, and is produced by Tony Hoffer. The single became the band’s highest-charting single in the UK so far, reaching #13. The artwork for the single features Julie Coyle and Marisa Privitera.

A different version of the song “Funny Little Frog” appears in Stuart Murdoch’s project “God Help the Girl”.

Fair play to the band for moving the sound along again in a different direction with the single that pre-dated the release of The Life Pursuit by around a month or so.  My problem was however, that it just didn’t excite me in the way that earlier releases had.  It’s not that Funny Little Frog is poor or a total let-down, but it wasn’t one that stopped me in my tracks or made me want to listen to it on heavy rotation.  Having said that, it was clearly one for radio play and the idea of its release date was to create a bit of excitement around the new LP;  it didn’t fail on either count with, as wiki states, becoming the band’s biggest 45 and paving the way for the LP to debut at #8, which again was a watermark achievement.

It was released on CD single, 7″ and DVD format, and you had to buy all three formats if you wanted all the b-sides.  Changed days indeed.

mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Funny Little Frog
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Meat and Potatoes
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – I Took A Long Hard Look

That’s the 3-track CD for you. Meat and Potatoes is is the tale of a couple’s attempts to spice up their sex life set to a tune that borders on a C&W ballad. It’s as dreadful as the words I’ve just typed up would have you imagine…..

I Took A Long Hard Look is Stevie Jackson by numbers. There’ll be loads who love this. I’m not one of them.

That’s the first time in nearly ten years that I’ll have played these songs. Still haven’t changed my opinion.

mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House

This was the b-side of the 7″ vinyl. Also made available as a track on a fundraiser album for a children’s charity. I don’t think it would make too many ICAs compiled by even the most hardcore B&S fan…

mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Lazy Line Painter Jane (live at the Botanics)

Back in June 2004, the band had played a special gig in a Glasgow park as part of a local festival. I remember the day well as it was the occasion summer visited the city that year – gloriously hot and sunny. I didn’t bother with the gig as I’m not a huge fan of the outdoor variety – and besides, it was a day best spent on the golf course. It’s a speeded-up version of the old song from the Lazy Line Painter Jane EP, but it does feature the magnificent Monica Queen on co-vocal so it’s well worth it.

Enjoy.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (10)

Books

from wiki

Books is an EP released by Belle & Sebastian in 2004 on Rough Trade Records. The EP features “Wrapped Up in Books” from Dear Catastrophe Waitress, two new songs — “Your Cover’s Blown” and “Your Secrets” — and “Cover (Version)”, a remix of “Your Cover’s Blown” by the band’s keyboardist Chris Geddes. The front cover features Alexandra Klobouk. The EP reached #20 in the UK singles chart.

from all music

Books is the third single from Belle & Sebastian’s 2003 album Dear Catastrophe Waitress. “Wrapped Up in Books” comes from the album. The other three songs are exclusive to the EP.

While the charming, low-key “Books” is a fine song, it is firmly in the B&S tradition. “Your Secrets” is also pretty typical fare, but very strong and catchy with the added perk of some lovely weeping pedal steel guitar. The real interesting track here is the mini-epic “Your Cover’s Blown.” It starts off as a slinky disco number with some wonderfully sexy vocals from Stuart Murdoch, has a lovely sunny chorus, and a spooky spy music bridge. Add to it typically literate and funny lyrics and you have a winner that is equal parts Pulp, Squeeze, and always uniquely Belle & Sebastian. The group’s creative renaissance continues to amaze. “Cover” is a funky remix of “Your Cover’s Blown.” The band’s Chris Geddes is responsible and he turns the track into a glittering dancefloor confection that wouldn’t sound out of place between the Rapture and !!! on indie dance night, or even in a Larry Levan mix.0

This is everything that the previous single wasn’t.  It’s got a brilliantly catchy and enjoyable lead track (one of many excellent songs on Dear Catastrophe Waitress) while the three other songs have a certain wow factor.  Your Secrets is a quality b-side, one which is up there with some of the earlier material, but as the reviewer indicates, the real joy is to be found in the funky and groovy Your Cover’s Blown and its remix.  This was the band taking a chance and really pulling it off.  One of my favourite B&S tracks simply for the fact it’s such a departure from the norm and so well pulled off.

mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Wrapped Up In Books
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Your Cover’s Blown
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Your Secrets
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian – Cover (version)

Enjoy.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (9)

cuckoo

From wiki

“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”,[1] who are also mentioned in the lyrics.

From all music

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).

B&S ON SUNDAYS (8)

Belle_&_Sebastian_-_Step_Into_My_Office,_Baby

From wiki:-

“Step Into My Office, Baby” is a song by Belle & Sebastian, released as their first single for Rough Trade Records in 2003. The track was produced by Trevor Horn and is lifted from Dear Catastrophe Waitress – the first of the band’s singles or EPs to also feature on an album. The front cover features band member Bobby Kildea with Roxanne Clifford (later of Veronica Falls) and Hannah Robinson.

Interesting that the move to a larger indie label saw the band move away from the tradition of keeping singles and album tracks separate; Indeed, it’s worth recalling that the single was released a full six weeks after the album,and so must have been part of a strategy to drive up sales beyond those of the loyal fan base. I suppose it’s part of the price to pay for being allowed to work with such a big name producer as Trevor Horn, a move that was a worry to many long-term fans who feared the unique sound of the band would somehow be forever lost. But what did the reviewers make of it all??

From allmusic:-

“Step Into My Office, Baby” is the lead single from Belle & Sebastian’s fine 2003 record Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Produced by Trevor Horn, the song is the most produced B&S song, with shifting moods and sounds, veering from bouncy, almost glitter rhythms to weepy string sections.

It is a stunning song, easily one of their best. The other two songs on the EP are very good as well, certainly good enough to be included on the album. “Love on the March” is a sweet bossa nova ballad with many cute ba-ba-bas and the usual pithy lyrics, and “Desperation Made a Fool of Me” is a laid-back piano with stately piano and a wistful vocal from the ever graceful Stuart Murdoch. The disc also contains the very funny video for “Step Into My Office, Baby” as a bonus. Belle & Sebastian have always released very high-quality singles and this is no exception.

So there you have it…a thumbs up from the critics and a thumbs-up too from the long-time fan. Yup, it was totally different from the older material but it was great to hear the band having the confidence to make such great strides forwards. It would have been easy enough to go synthetic on the sound but nope, this was the full-blown orchestral backing with 22 additional musicians involved. And that wouldn’t have been a cheap day in the studio.

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Step Into My Office, Baby
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Love On The March
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Desperation Made A Fool Of Me

The single stalled at #32 in the charts. A reasonably good showing for a B&S effort, but I’m sure a source of disappointment for the team at Rough Trade who had staked so much on the band.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (7)

ImWakingUpToUs

From wiki:-

“I’m Waking Up to Us” is a song by Belle & Sebastian, released as a single/EP on Jeepster in 2001. The track saw the band work with another producer besides usual collaborator Tony Doogan for the first time – Mike Hurst, former member of The Springfields and producer of Petula Clark and Cat Stevens.

The front cover features band member Sarah Martin and a beagle.

The all music review:-

The worry was that Belle & Sebastian had settled into a comfortable, premature middle age — treading water in their tried and true, admittedly pleasant formula but slowly relinquishing their potential to greatly move us. That notion is hereby dispelled, nay, smashed to smithereens by this wonderful piece of art.

“I’m Waking Up to Us” is the matter that striking pop is made up of, like a golden Bacharach staple, where sharp acoustic guitars, a chiming lead, supple bass, resonant background violins, agreeable piano, and a trio of bassoon, oboe, and flute cameos combine to supply the perfect tuneful four-minute pop song. Having drawn us in like sorcerers to this lush, tantalizing, but precarious concoction, Stuart Murdoch delivers one of his most sterling and memorable vocal performances, perfectly timed to correspond to an equally accomplished set of direct-feeling words. He was always a vigorous poet, but he outdoes even himself here, impressively turning a superb firsthand soul-search into regretful acidity. This is the sort of rich lyrical complexity, with the unfolding hook of narrative like a great film, that top shelf ’60s pop once trafficked in — but no longer cares a rats ass to deliver.

And it doesn’t stop there, on the two other non-LP B-sides. “I Love My Car” is a sublime one-two quarter-note rhythm step meeting both a playful feel, and an equally frilly, intoxicated lyric highlighted by a clever Beach Boys tribute. Then, as a fitting closer, “Marx and Engels” is another lithe piano-led pretty-gem, the kind that made this U.K. collective cult-famous. It’s yet three more minutes of pure bliss, punctuated by a sumptuous turn on the ivories at the close. You’ll never see this on an LP, but that just makes it more of a must purchase.

The band was augmented on the lead song by twelve violins, three violas, a bassoon, an oboe and a flute, while I Love My Car has a jazz/skiffle band on board with banjo, trumpet, trombone, clarinet and sousaphone all put to good use. The end result is one of the best of their singles/EPs and one which was deserving of a much higher chart position than #39.

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – I’m Waking Up To Us
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – I Love My Car
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Marx and Engels

I’m Waking Up To Us is surely one of the nastiest lyrics of all time. Stuart Murdoch and Isobel Campbell‘s romantic relationship had run its course although she was still an essential part of the band. So he pens a song about things not working out and gets the subject matter of the song to play on it. It was an act of real cruelty and I’m sure Isobel was pretty humiliated by it all.

You could even extend it to the b-side where the lyric talks of loving cars, cats and dogs but not the human being in the song……

I suppose Isobel got her revenge the following year by quitting the band in the middle of an important tour of the USA and putting the frontman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (6)

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From wiki:-

“Jonathan David” is a single released by Belle & Sebastian on Jeepster in 2001. The lead track gets its name from the biblical duo of Jonathan and David, while “The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner” is a reference to Alan Sillitoe’s short story “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.” The front cover features band members Mick Cooke and Bobby Kildea with Gill Dodds. All three tracks from the single were later collected on the Push Barman to Open Old Wounds compilation. The title track was the band’s first single to feature lead vocals from guitarist Stevie Jackson.

The allmusic review:-

The B&S railroad rebounds from that mess of unforeseen mediocrity, the “Legal Man” EP. Perhaps it’s hard to carp at a group that’s restored the lost Brit tradition of “all exclusive tracks” EPs (making them like Buzzcocks, the Smiths, or Mega City Four in that regard), as opposed to LP singles with rip-off B-sides on two separate CDs. But “Legal Man” mixed an advanced sense of humor with… shockingly zero musical inspiration. So, hurrah, these three tunes tap back into this bunch’s pumping artery of graceful, sonorous songcraft. Perhaps “Jonathan David” should have been sung by superior talent Stuart Murdoch, but its piano-driven brooding chords (enhanced by an eerie church organ) support a sterling melody more arresting than anything off Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. Great Zombies-inspired a cappella harmony bridge, too! Then, when Murdoch retakes the mike on the oddly titled “Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It,” he trills over deep orchestral violins, cellos, and sweet country lap steel that float like carefree balloons, making old fans swoon the world over. Finally, the similarly excellent, more bouncy/jaunty “The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner” wins official release at last.

Readers from last week will know that I disagree strongly with the above reviewer as I thought, and still do, that Legal Man was a tremendous single. And I disagree too with the view that Jonathan David was a return to form. And that’s primarily down to the fact that Stevie Jackson‘s attempts at lead vocal have tended to grate over all the years. Yup, its a fine tune but I don’t listen to it very often.

The other two songs though really are worth it. Carriage Clock is a lovely lament about the futility of devoting your life to the factory or office while Middle Distance Runner is something of a lost 45 in my opinion. It was a song that had been around for a while, including if my memory serves me correctly, a live performance on TV about a year or maybe as much as 18 months prior to its release.0

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Jonathan David
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – The Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner

The song reached #31 in the UK charts; not as high as Legal Man but still very respectable given there was hardly any radio play.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (5)

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From wiki:-

“Legal Man” is a single released by Belle & Sebastian on Jeepster Records in 2000. The title track also features Jonny Quinn (on congas), Rozanne Suarez (on vocals) and The Maisonettes (on vocals). The cover features band members Stevie Jackson and Isobel Campbell along with Adrienne Payne and Rozanne Suarez. All three tracks from the single were later collected on the Push Barman to Open Old Wounds compilation. The track became their highest charting single up to that point, reaching #15 in the UK singles chart. They also made their debut on Top of the Pops to perform this song.

The two B-side tracks are notable for their historical significance; “Judy Is a Dick Slap” is the first instrumental released by the band, while “Winter Wooskie” is the third and final lead vocal from former bass player Stuart David, who left the band in 2000. Initially a demo, the track was completed by the other members after David’s departure as a farewell gesture.

The review from all music:-

I must admit that I have no idea what a “Legal Man” is-a pimp, a policeman, a meter maid? I’m clueless. This knowledge, however, is not necessary to enjoying this single. “Legal Man” find Belle and Sebastian picking up on the 60’s pop sound of “Lazy Line Painter Jane” complete with backing female vocalists The Maisonettes and, strangely, a sitar. An odd combination, but it works. The second track “Judy is a Dick Slap,” is perhaps the funniest B&S song ever. Mainly because of it’s rather, er, attention getting title, but subsequent lack of vocals. This, the first instrumental song by the band, is also an excellent joke. The final song, “Winter Wooskie” is a slower more tear-jerking ballad, but humorous as well-the object of the singers’ affection nearly sleeping though his ode. This record shows the band going forward, albeit in many different directions at once. Clearly there is some “growing” going on here, but it all seems a welcome step for the band.

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Legal Man
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Judy Is A Dick Slap
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Winter Wooskie

Legal Man was released in May 2000, some 18 months after This Is Just A Modern Rock Song. In the interim, Belle and Sebastian had picked up best new act at the 1999 Brit Awards, a result that had left many establishment figures in the music industry speechless.  What had happened was the vote for this award was open fully to the public with the winners fully anticipated to be Steps who had enjoyed a run of hit singles and massive media exposure; however, it was the first real used of internet voting and the B&S fanbase, many of them using their personal and student e-mail addresses, voted en masse and got the award.  The reaction of the tabloid press in the UK was hilarious – how dare a band who nobody had ever heard of it take such a prestigious award?

The new single was a dramatic shift in sound for the band.  It was aimed full-on at radio stations and it did get daytime play.  For many people, it was the first time they had bought a B&S record/CD.  I’m sure many of them would the following month go out and buy the new LP Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant and been bamboozled by the fact that none of the songs sounded anything like Legal Man!

 

BONUS POSTING : HAPPY TALK

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I went on Facebook last night and posted something. It’s not normally something that I do…I tend to use the place as a way of throwing out pithy one-liners in response to what others have said; indeed, I only joined up in the first place as it was the way to keep on top of certain announcements around events and ticket availability. But such was the magnitude of the happening that I felt I had to share my thoughts with my cybernet mates:-

They say good things tend to come in threes. Here’s some evidence….

I recently had the good fortune to catch incredible live performances, at small intimate venues, from two of my all-time favourites in the shape of Robert Forster and Belle & Sebastian.

Not too many things could top that. But the announcement that Aidan and Malcolm are reforming for three live shows this coming October does exactly that.

2016 started off real shit for music fans with far too many sad and untimely deaths. The summer has so far been an awful lot better…..

A wee bit of explanation.

Robert Forster is a total legend. But his visits to these parts are, naturally, few and far between and so the fact he was coming to Glasgow and playing, of all places, the wonderful space that is King Tut’s made it a ‘must see’. However, I was nagged by the fact that someone as talented and revered as him wasn’t playing a larger venue given the legacy of his time as a Go-Between and not forgetting last year’s Songs To Play was such a wonderful listen. I was concerned too that I’d go along and end up annoyed with folk who were only there for the old stuff and would show a lack of respect by talking their way through the material they either didn’t know or were less fond of. And in a venue with a 300 capacity, all it would take is a handful of such idiots to ruin the occasion.

My fears came to nothing as this was one of the best audiences I’ve ever had the privilege of being part of. Robert and his band got a rousing reception and the cheers for his solo material were every bit as loud as those for the songs by his old band. He was on stage for the best part of two hours, struggling a bit with his voice as he had a dreadful cold, but where many would have been tempted to use that as an excuse to hold back in a performance he seemed to use it to push himself that bit harder. He played around 20 songs with half coming from the Go-Betweens back catalogue…and he had such a talented group of musicians with him that it felt as if the clock really had been rolled back more than 30 years. It was bliss. I didn’t think I’d enjoy myself so much at a gig in 2016.

And then, just two weeks later I find myself at the Debating Chamber of Glasgow University Union (capacity 500 – 250 standing and same again seated upstairs). I’ve been in this space quite a few times but never for a gig….and by my reckoning it will be about the 75th different Glasgow venue that I’ve paid to see live music performed (must do a posting o that sometime). Belle & Sebastian are due on stage for what will be the first of three nights to celebrate their own 20th Anniversary and the 21st Birthday of the West End Festival, a highly popular event held every summer in the most bohemian quarter of my home city. I’m not sure what to expect as my expectations of the band have been gradually diminishing in recent years with recent albums leaving me disappointed and then there was a farce of a gig at the Hydro (capacity 13,000) in which they failed dismally in their efforts to put on a show in keeping with that size of venue. It was full of gimmicks, stage-managed to the point of ridiculous and just not in keeping with the band so many of us had fallen head over heels with.

Another show just under two hours long, with most of the material drawn from the very early albums and EPs , and almost all the songs being aired in the live setting for the first time since I didn’t have any X’s in front of the L in the label of my indie-kid t-shirts. And it was joyous and a celebration of everything that not only makes the band special but brings out the best in folk from my home city who know instinctively when they are seeing and hearing something special and react accordingly. There was no talking in between songs, no attempts to sing-a-long and drown out the band, and there was hand-clapping when the band sought a bit of accompaniment at the right times. I smiled at the opening note of the first song and I was still grinning as myself and Aldo made our way home in time for the last train thanks to the venue being in an area where there is an early curfew – this would normally be a bone of contention but not on a Monday night when there’s a long week at work ahead!

Two days later though, all of that gets topped.

Arab Strap were together for ten years from 1996. Since then, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have carved out successful and critically acclaimed solo careers which has played a part in how revered their original band had become since they walked off stage for the last time in December 2006. They jokingly (or so it seemed) said at the time said they might reform in another ten years.

The internet stirred last weekend when the band’s website suddenly carried the teasing message ‘HELLO AGAIN’ imposed on top of a very early promo photo. A countdown to Monday lunchtime led to a message to listen in to Steve Lamacq’s show on BBC Radio 6 on Wednesday afternoon. That was where it was confirmed they were getting together for three shows in October in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Furthermore, a download single was being available – a Miaoux Miaoux remix of The First Big Weekend – which would be released 20 years to the day when the actual weekend in question took place. Which just happens to be today.

I’ve purchased and downloaded the song and it is fucking amazing. A musical highlight not just of 2016 but of the 21st Century.

A year that was threatening to be the worst ever has suddenly, and very unexpectedly, taken a huge turn for the better.

mp3 : Robert Forster – Rock’n’Roll Friend
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian -If You’re Feeling Sinister
mp3 : Arab Strap – I Saw You

Sigh.

B&S ON SUNDAYS (4)

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From wiki:-

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….

B&S ON SUNDAYS (3)

3.._6.._9.._Seconds_Of_Light

From wiki:-

3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light was Belle & Sebastian’s third EP, released in 1997 on Jeepster Records.

The lead track on the EP, “A Century of Fakers,” uses the same backing track as “A Century of Elvis” from Lazy Line Painter Jane. Another song, “Songs for Children” (sometimes known as “On the Radio”) plays directly after “Put the Book Back on the Shelf” (on the same track) on both the CD and 12″ versions of this release. The front cover features band member Stuart Murdoch with Victoria Morton.

The EP was later re-packaged as part of the Lazy Line Painter Jane box-set, and all four tracks were collected on the Push Barman to Open Old Wounds compilation. Both NME and Melody Maker made the release their Single of the Week, and the EP became the band’s first to reach the UK top 40 singles chart, peaking at #32.

On-line review from allmusic:-

3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light concludes Belle & Sebastian’s streak of three extraordinary EPs in 1997 in grand style, offering four remarkable songs from Stuart Murdoch. “A Century of Fakers” has different lyrics and a melody than Lazy Line Painter Jane’s “A Century of Elvis,” which consisted of the same backing track and a spoken story. “Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie” is a reverb-drenched song that is the closest the band has ever come to rock, and “Put the Book Back on the Shelf” is a typically lovely slow number, but “Beautiful,” with its graceful, lyrical melody, ranks among Murdoch’s best ballads.

It is true – this was the third extraordinary EP in succession.  The lead track in this instance however, is probably the weakest of the four/five tracks.  Le Pastie….is the standout on this occasion and which to this day still gets a huge ovation whenever it is played live.

Again, this EP came with a short story in the sleevenotes.  This one could be made into a great short film…….

It was a day like today, really warm, when everybody is out of doors, happy to be lying around. Jim had something going. A little project that involved making posters for concerts that would never happen, and record sleeves for records that never existed. He had got up at around six am. Sprung out of bed as if the thought of sleep scared him. The sun was coming directly against the wall just beside his bed. There was a picture of Echo And The Bunnymen. It was very quiet apart from that.

He didn’t wonder what would happen today. He was going to make things happen. He felt like his enthusiasm would rip his heart out of his chest. He worked himself up into a state of excitement. The possibilities of the day were endless. He has nineteen and limber, and the sun sparkled through his tea as it splashed into the cup.

He lined up his various papers and packed them into his bag. He sat at his desk at the window and arrayed his athletes’ breakfast in front of him. He listened to Radio Four for a bit, and then he set to work with his blunted pencil and rub down transfers. He kept what he was trying to say in a straight line by using the edge forged Matriculation Card. As far as the University authorities knew, his name was Arthur Cooke.

Pretty soon, with all pressing matters blissfully set aside, he fell into a reverie the type of which could go on all day if you let it. he gladly let it because it echoed a dream he had once had, and dreams were as close as he ever got to matters spiritual. He had known a girl once who had a tent. They talked about going camping into the country one summer. He was fond of the girl and he was fond of her friend both. Her friend was nice and though studied architecture in another city was around often enough to be in on their plan. When they were around Jim often looked straight at his boots and wondered at the gifts the girls had for their various brainy pursuits. He was a bit ashamed. He was older than them, but was a bit of a flop in the brain department. His reverie involved the tent, the dusk, the smell of hot trainers and not much else. He never managed to the country with them.

Jim woke up again, his plan for the day lying in tatters he thought. It was a quarter past twelve. he had fallen asleep in a pool of sunlight and he had been woken by a ring at his neighbour’s door. He was drowsy and his head full of false literature of dreams and failed schedules. He dressed with not much care. When he flicked on the radio a song was playing that he found unexpected pleasure in. This was very, very lucky. His bag was packed for a quick getaway which was lucky too. So out and over the hill to the busy arcade where he did his photocopying. He was lucky on a day like today that he lived in an area of schools, tenants and flowering cherries. In the winter it was dour, but his one room flat was ok as long as he had outside to step into. He stepped along the street and noticed the heat off the pavement through his black plimsoll boots. He wondered, if he painted them with hot tyre rubber if they would last him till his housing cheque came through.

Jim came to the steps of the arcade. It was cooler for a second or two, but the hotness was replaced by the dry heat of photocopy fans. He waited in the queue of students and small business women, and he felt endless sympathy for the men that worked the machines.

Photocopying was all the rage that year so there was quite a queue of young trendies and h——-s. A man with the forward slanting mother of all pudding bowl haircuts struggled to see what he was doing. His machine was throwing out endless prints of psychedelic swirls. Chatty undergraduate girls warmed to the new craze. Jim wished slightly that he could have beaten the rush. But at least he recognised another boy at the copy shop. He watched in a trance as the boy’s illustration of a cat banging a drum got bigger and bigger.

Soon it was his turn to get on a machine. He was there to make a picture for his room. He had a tiny photography that he kept in a keyring. He had found it in an art college when he was working as a cleaner. It was only a test for a real photograph he thought. He didn’t think they would miss it.

It was a picture of a boy and a girl on a beach. Jim took the picture and put it in the machine. He booted the enlarge up to as far as it would go. He pressed print and the light flashed across the picture. He wondered if it would come out at all but it looked pretty good, about the size of a bank card. He did the same thing twice over. He was pretty excited. The picture was terrific, burnt out and grainy, he thought it didin’t look like real people at all. He felt much better now. He started to look around the little copy shop.

He noticed a paper lying underneath one of the machines. He stooped down to pick it up. It had stuff written on it. He picked it up and started to read.

“Claire and I decided to devise a music workshop for a group of 20 children around the age of five. It could be carried out in a school or in a community centre. Children of this age are still very uninhibited and energetic, which potentially provides teachers or workshop leaders with a vast and unlimited musical scope. The idea of our workshop is to introduce some very simple movements (such as hand-clapping and marching) that will effectively relax and improve the childrens’ overall coordination and concentration. Alongside rhythm, melody and movement, we would also like to draw the childrens’ attention to musical dynamics and tempo. To demonstrate, we will get the children to perform their warm-up and song at varying speeds and volumes. The workshop will finish with a performance of the song.

To introduce the workshop we will begin with a warm- up, lasting about seven minutes. The children should be instructed to form a spacious circle. We will then demonstrate marching and clapping along to a basic 4/4 rhythm. This game can be a lot of fun. Whilst maintaining the clapping and marching along to a beat, individuals take it in turn to create any sound, at any pitch, of any length, with any words. The only restriction to the game being that they can only make their sound when it is their turn, and it must always be the same. They have to remember their own personal sound.”

The report reminded Jim of the time when he was an administrator of the sick and young. He wanted to think about that for a while. He took his thoughts to the cafe nearby.

It was busy with people eating and talking in booths. He got some coffee and watched a man and a girl in the next booth. He thought they had been there for quite a while. There was books and paper scattered on the table, along with debris from cup after cup of coffee. They weren’t aware of him watching. They weren’t aware of anything as the girl was writing, while the boy read a magazine.

A another table, a girl stared solemnly into her cup. Jim wished he could’ve taken her picture. But then he was afraid that he might steal the moment away from her…

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – A Century Of Fakers
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Beautiful
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Put The Book Back On The Shelf/Songs For Children

The fact that a little know band, with next to no radio play, on a tiny independent radio could take an EP (which retailed for slightly more than a standard single) into the Top 40 of the UK charts was a significant achievement.

 

B&S ON SUNDAYS (2)

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As I said last week, much of what will appear in this series will be lifted from wiki .

Here’s what it says:-

Lazy Line Painter Jane was Belle & Sebastian’s second EP, released in 1997 on Jeepster Records. The title track features guest vocalist Monica Queen and was recorded in a church hall. “A Century of Elvis” features bassist Stuart David reading out a story he had written, over music by the band. The backing music from that track was later used on “A Century of Fakers” from 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light.

Pretty feeble stuff as this particular EP deserves a lot more praise. Such as this on-line review from allmusic:-

On their second EP of 1997, Belle & Sebastian delve deeper into ’60s pop, developing a richer, fuller sound, not to mention an actual rock & roll edge. “Lazy Line Painter Jane” has a swirling organ and a thick backbeat, as well as guest vocals from Monica Queen, who duets with Stuart Murdoch. Her voice and the organ come as a shock, but “Lazy Line Painter Jane” reveals itself as one of Belle & Sebastian’s best songs. “You Made Me Forget My Dreams” and “Photo Jenny,” two shining examples of the group’s folk-rock, live up to the high standards of the title track, while “A Century of Elvis” has a lovely, lilting instrumental track (it would later be used for “A Century of Fakers”) that supports a pleasantly surreal story by Stuart David.

It is true – the lead track, which comes in at a shade under six minutes, is one the best B&S songs and much of that is down to the vocal contribution from Ms Queen who, by 1997, was a bit of a veteran of the Glasgow music scene as part of the band Thrum who had enjoyed critical acclaim via releases on Fire Records.  Indeed, just about the loudest cheer of the B&S gigs at Glasgow Barrowlands in December 2010 greeted Monica’s surprise appearance on the stage during the encore.

The EP came with a short story in the sleevenotes:-

Lazy Line Painter Jane prayed for an inspiration that would lift her above the mundanity of midday on a Thursday. She was in a hole, sat with egg and chips, watching buses through the plate glass and easy radio of some old cafe. She was too bashful to pray outright in the cafe, so she pretended to read her fortune at the bottom of her tea cup, and she got what she wanted that way.

The inspiration came along quite soon. It was lucky for her. It had seemed impossible, for her to feel ok, considering the trouble she was in. It seemed impossible, considering the gloominess of that lunchtime.

Jane had never managed to build Thursday into the weekend like some other people did. She didn’t look forward to the weekend anyway. The only good thing about the weekend was that it ushered in the following week. She was a slave to the working week. But she was unemployed.

She was doubtful whether she even deserved her Thursday gift. She had done a lot of swearing and shouting during her period. She almost felt guilty to take up the baton and run. But run she did. Straight to the cathedral graveyard. She took her idea straight through the cathedral graves and out, over the wall at the other end. She found herself in the East End of the city.

She took the inspiration and ran. It filled her like a playground balloon. Now she wasn’t treading on any toes. Jane’s agenda was clear. She just felt like running. To forget her joblessness and her hopelessness. Stripped of her present care, her skin was translucent, and she travelled fast and light over grass and stone precincts. She ran past lines of traffic into quiet streets where her breath and fast steps were the only sound she could hear. Stripped of her present care. And her guilt at being lazy.

Jane pretended she was making indie-rock videos as she tore through the East End. She thought herself quite magnificent, and caused only two minor disturbences as she went. She stopped running when she reached the river.

That was lovely. Reaching the river. A sudden wilderness of wasteland and trees. She may have been a bit worried if it wasn’t for the oxygen pumping in her head, acting like a drug. There was a path, dancing with industrial mayflys, constructed with an air of municipal grants. She followed it, ducking under flyovers, flying over traveller’s caravans. She ran past long curves of ash and alder. She ran until she flopped down in a bus shelter. The rain came on. She had run out of rock video fodder.

She waited in the bus shelter for a while. She had reached the main street of a town that was not part of the city at all. She had reached the provinces, and as such, the youth of the town flirted and taunted with an unaffected provincial air. Casuals drank QC. They put on a show for her, but they never challenged her directly. She was grateful they didn?t pick on her strangeness. Her inspiration had flagged, and she didn?t know how she could handle them by herself.

They went away, to be replaced by the town’s thinking girl’s talent. He smoked a regal cigarette, and paced around a little. Jane couldn’t decide if he was waiting for a bus, or if he had just come out because the rain had stopped. But she liked the sound his segs made on the wet pavement. And she admired him for his quiff. It was the biggest quiff that small town beatings would allow for. He sat down in the shelter. He obliged her by staring at her boots, and rubbing his forhead feverishly. He sat for the length of his cigarette and then went off, leaving Painter Jane alone.

She drank up the peace because she knew that she would be back in her house by fall of night. In the city, a dozen things would be vying for her attention simultaneously. She thought it was around six, but in fact it was nearer nine. She pulled her knees close to her chest. Her jogging bottoms smelled of pollen. She waited for the bus to take her back to the city. As she waited, she thought about how she had got her name, and what she was going to do about it.

Quite.

You can see now why the band were accused of being pretentious to the point of annoying. Just as well the music was so good.

mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Lazy Line Painter Jane
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – You Made Me Forget My Dreams
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – Photo Jenny
mp3 : Belle and Sebastian – A Century Of Elvis

The EP almost hit the big time.  It entered the UK charts at #41 on 9 August 1997, dropping down to #70 the following week. And that’s without much radio play to accompany the EP.