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.