I’m capping off Belle and Sebastian week with another song from one of their EPs — this one an extra track on the ‘Books’ EP.
‘Your Cover’s Blown’ is one of the oddest things Belle and Sebastian has ever recorded, and one of the most exciting. It’s a funk jam about a jilted lover hitting the clubs for a little revenge sex and realizing he’s in over his head.
So far this week I’ve concentrated on Belle and Sebastian’s early work, but now I jump ahead to their last studio album, 2006’s The Life Pursuit. This is their least twee effort to date, with a more muscular, fleshed-out sound and more complicated production.
Some fans aren’t thrilled with the direction the band has taken on this album and its predecessor, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, but I feel the opposite. I consider this some of their strongest work and song-for-song The Life Pursuit might be their most consistently excellent album. All the usual touches are there but also a confidence and a taste for experimentation that suits them well.
One great thing about Belle and Sebastian is that for their first ten or so years they released, between albums, EPs that contained three of four completely new songs. Rather than releasing a CD single with an album song and a couple of bonus tracks, they reserved those singles for brand new material. This meant fans had new songs to look forward to almost every year.
And these weren’t throwaway songs. Some of their best-loved tunes are on those EPs, including today’s track, ‘Dog on Wheels.’
I really like the word ‘twee.’ It’s one of those words (and I think there’s a name for this) that sounds like what it means. Sort of like ‘guttural’ or ‘effervescent.’ I mean, can you think of a more twee word than ‘twee?’
Twee is also the most common adjective I’ve seen applied to Belle and Sebastian. They are certainly among the more delicate sounding bands out there. One could argue that their music is for pale art class geeks who would fall into a seizure if they heard genuine rock and roll.
I get that. But done right, I find delicacy in popular music a marvelous thing. And Belle and Sebastian most definitely do it right.
I’ve decided to dedicate future theme weeks, at least for the time being, to five songs by the same artist or band. And to get us started, I’ve chosen everybody’s favorite Scottish septet, Belle and Sebastian. (Is there a Scottish septet you like better? If so, please let me know).
If I was forced at gunpoint to pick a favorite band (unlikely, sure, but it could happen) I wouldn’t hesitate too long before naming Belle and Sebastian. R.E.M. would be a close second, and of course one can’t forget The Beatles, but I have experienced more awe, joy and pathos courtesy of this group than any other. Over the course of seven albums and more than a dozen EPs, they have crafted some of the finest music I’ve ever heard.
Any list of my favorite artists would find the Scottish septet Belle & Sebastian nestled right up top. I like these guys so much that I could scrap this format and go to a ‘Belle & Sebastian Song of the Day’ very easily (though I’d have to live without Alex’s readership).
My favorite description of the band was a back-handed compliment (or maybe an open-handed criticism?) along the lines of “They’re a seven-piece band that somehow sounds like a single guy in a room with an acoustic guitar.” Much of their music is gorgeously delicate, a blend of guitar, piano, strings and horns buttressing Stuart Murdoch’s fragile vocals. But they’ve showed a knack for rocking out as well, especially on recent albums, and a crunk vibe I wouldn’t have thought possible from a bunch of twee Scotsmen.