[obscure shit for nobodies]
So Louise comes in and goes 'what's with all this Jo bullshit then?' I go 'huh?', and she really lays into me. She's quietly yelling, and she's going, 'you get it all ass-backwards, don't you? You just don't get the Being Young thing.' I gulp a breath of the humid July air. She goes on, 'you give out these tapes with these songs, this Belle & Sebastian, and you think we could even care less? We all of us hate it. Obscure shit for nobodies, or if it's anyone it's you weirdo losers. And those words… you witter on and you never even say what it sounds like…'
Well gee, I'm sorry. Is it time to make amends? Perhaps.
So I'm eternally grateful and sorry to the world and the words that I put into it. For people are strange. It seems.
The new Belle & Sebastian record is out in the UK on July 28th, but don't hold your breath cos look how often Dog On Wheels was put back. It's called, perhaps rather strangely, the 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' EP, and again it has four tracks. Let's look at those shall we:
If a song could look at you sideways out it's eyes and give you a snotty smile, then 'Lazy Jane' surely would. It's a massive song, the kind of song a group records when they just know that they are, for the moment, invincible. Organs swirl in a kind of Velvets drone, but with the Feltist edge that has always endeared Belle & Sebastian to these ears at the very least. In fact, there's ghosts of the early incarnation of Denim here too; it's those Glitter Band handclaps and guitars, and hell, when you put those kind of ingredients together it's like you're in the middle of a summertime cacophony of heavenly popnoise. And the vocals… it's Belle & Sebastian do the Gram Parsons / Emmylou Harris duet thing, although I guess that Emmylou is too sweet a comparison to make, so imagine her tones with a harder edge and you'll be dreaming the fine dreams that Belle & Sebastian somehow manage to deliver on with delightful regularity. Lyrically, and you have to admit, if you listen to Belle & Sebastian, that lyrically they always delight and often confuse, well… it's more for the confusion stakes here. An elliptical tale of a village daydream believer living out mediated days and nights in the glare of public recognition and/or damnation. Possibly.
It's more 'rock' than I expect some fans will care to admire, but if this isn't the theme for mad August love affairs then I'm a bigger fool that Louise thought.
So onto 'You Made Me Forget My Dreams', and a tune that dives for the covers after the stratospheric strafing of the opening track. This is melancholic, the fallout from the aforementioned August love affairs, the nights turning with that cool edge and the realities going sour.
'Photo Jenny' is soaraway pop, the kind of song that does all things you expect, at all the correct moments. Cherish it for that, and for the fact that it captures the delights of those fleeting events of your teenaged years, your obsession for faces, places and inconsequences and the home movies you made in your mind to record them all.
'A Century of Elvis' marries a tune whose refrain reminds me greatly of Sabres of Paradise's magisterial 'Smokebelch' (the beatless one, the one they used for 'Loved Up') with an amusing tale of 'Elvis' who comes into Stuart David and Wee Karn's house everyday. It's good to hear the group using the spoken word (the spoken Ink Polaroids were always a delight), and this is a fine partner to their soul-mates Arab Strap's massive 'First Big Weekend' in telling simple, strangely natural stories of the events that make life worth living. And for those of you who care about these kind of completist things, this tune is the same as what I presume is called 'A Century of Fakers' (no track listing for the tape I have), but obviously without the singing bit… Perhaps 'Fakers' will appear on the next EP? Me, I'm longing for 'Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie' (roughly translated as the apathy of the upper class) which is a McCarthy title if ever there was one.
So that's it then. Four great songs, again, that make you go all floaty and delirious, that make you want to shout from the rooftops about the sheer fabulousness of Belle & Sebastian. So come on, join in the throng. How can you resist?
Louise is driving into college in her mum's convertible escort. She's wearing a T-shirt that says 'Belle & Sebastian: the early years' and a cd re-issue of 'Tigermilk' is blaring from the stereo. The scent of peppermint is in the air. We walk on razor blades and talk through clenched teeth. We say we are happy about it all.
© Alistair Fitchett 1997.
Thanks to Andrew Dean for scanning the photo, and thanks to Jon Jordan for the photo in the first place.