Hello. I’m a teenager. Between re-reading Catcher in the Rye, giving couples the evil-eye and wondering where that hair came from, I generally spend my time worrying, obsessively listening to records and being socially awkward. If any of the above applies to you, you need Belle and Sebastian in your life. If not, you’re still pretty likely to need Belle and Sebastian in your life. Lyrically, warm and witty; musically, densely melodic and charming; the band’s second album ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ is a treasure trove of songs that most people would slit their wrists to be able to write. The opener ‘The Stars of Track and Field’ distantly observes its subject matter with equal jealousy and awe with its tongue in danger of tearing a hole in its cheek at the quietly bitter chorus of “The stars of track and field are beautiful people…”. From there, the record perfectly skewers its subjects with Stuart Murdoc’s astute lyricism that teeters on the line between the sceptic and hopeless romantic. The occasional warm cellos, trumpets and violins accentuate the already original sound; Murdoc has the kind of voice that sounds like it was bullied at school and is all the more charming for it. He doesn’t have the best voice in the world, but as David Byrne of Talking Heads once said: “The better a person’s voice is, the harder it is to believe them”. As well as having as good a voice as most (think Nick Drake) you believe every word and not a single lyric or note sounds wasted.
Friendships can be spawned from a mutual love of Belle and Sebastian. ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ is probably the best place to start. There’s not a mis-spent moment here, everything sounds great and how it should. It carves its own niche both lyrically and musically and has few rivals. A wonderful achievement.
Listen to this: if you really hated school.
Key track: Seeing Other People