Belle & Sebastian CD/LP reviewed by Howard Wuelfing

Music Reviews
Belle & Sebastian CD/LP reviewed by Howard Wuelfing
Nov 2, 2009, 03:53

Belle and Sebastian - The BBC Sessions (Deluxe Edition)


I'll admit I have not been a fan of Belle & Sebastian or followed their career too closely. I picked up the first couple releases and felt that these contained the essence of everything this outfit would ever achieve; and I have not had to revise that opinion. The BBC Sessions comprises a disc of radio sessions and one of live recordings apparently; the download I received for review only covered the studio work so that's all I can comment on.

Regarding the former—B&S emerged from the United Kingdom's indie rock scene of the 90s with all systems and signifiers in place, and functioning perfectly: brittle rhythm guitar breezing along, gamely supported by chattering, snare-heavy drumming and in turn supporting archetypal shaggy male vocal stylings. Their source materials were the Velvet's third album filtered through the Smiths + the Postcard Records roster (Josef K, Orange Juice, et al) + Haircut 100 + dozens of  1980's neo-poppers that likewise pursued an earnest yet offhand retro-fitting of bossa nova vocabulary.

Belle & Sebastian's culmination of these influences did achieve a perfect balance between the raw and the twee, resulting in an intensely accessible sound that any awkward twenty-something could identify with, feeling it was all well within their own reach if they should ever pick up a cheap electric guitar and mic themselves.  It's entirely understandable that they won the hearts of an entire generation of indie kids.

Now, Belle and Sebastian have outlived all their peers, continuing to mine the same stylistic terrain, ably and affectionately, and have earned their status as a musical institution. [Matador]

-Howard W.


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