I was going to write that I consider this one of their top three albums but when I checked their discography to be sure, I realized I might have to amend that to one of their top five. Maybe six. And they’ve released only nine full-length albums. The moral being that God damn, Belle & Sebastian are a great band and I should dive back into their catalog soon instead of trying to understand what critics liked about the Cardi B album.
The title track from Belle & Sebastian’s third studio album, 1998’s The Boy With the Arab Strap, is a quintessential B&S song. It’s delicate, quietly rollicking, precious but snarky, unmistakably the work of this wonderful, improbable band.
Lead singer/songwriter Stuart Murdoch took the “Arab Strap” reference in this song from a Scottish band of the same name. He didn’t realize it referred to a device used by men to maintain erections.
I had more Top 40 hits in this year’s top twenty countdown than I ever have before, so I guess I’ve earned the right to go full indie geek and give my #1 spot to an epic Belle & Sebastian song about battling depression.
What did you expect, ‘Hotline Bling?’
When R.E.M.’s 1998 album Up, their first without drummer Bill Berry, was met with mixed reviews, Michael Stipe said this in an interview: “If this record dropped out of the sky by a three-piece band that nobody had heard of, people would be in the street shouting at the top of their lungs, naked, about it.”
He was being overly defensive, but I could see his point. Established bands — especially great ones — are always measured against their own legacy, their finest moments.
It is more notable, however, for its title, which is both naughty and nonsensical. I have a pretty good guess what a “dick slap” is (and Urban Dictionary is there to support that guess in graphic fashion) but I’m not sure how Judy, or anybody, can be one.
The 25 songs they released this way between 1997 and 2001 combine to rival any of their LPs, and in fact the whole lot were released on a double disc in 2005 with the title Push Barman to Open Old Wounds.
My desert island countdown continues (see Monday’s post for the full explanation).
Desert Island Musical Artists – Honorable Mention – Belle & Sebastian
The Scottish septet very nearly made my top five but the tough competition edged them out to the unofficial sixth spot.
Eight full-length albums and a couple of dozen B-sides and EP tracks should keep me in twee indie-pop heaven for quite awhile.