A horrible hack

Belle and Sebastian

Dear Catastrophe Waitress

Year Released: 2003
Format: CD
Label: Rough Trade
 
Reviewed by Graeme Cunningham on Jun 13, 2007
Belle and Sebastian tend to provoke a distinct reaction amongst music fans. Most of the people I know fall either in the "love" or "loathe" camp (unless you're in conversation with a member of the Now42 buying public who are more likely simply to ask "who?"). For quite some time, I subscribed to the loath camp, despite never really having heard them properly. Dismissing them offhand as Indy drivel. Then one New Year someone left a tape of "Boy with the arab strap" at my house. By chance I gave it a try and was immediately hooked. Rapid procurement of the back catalogue followed.

This is Belle and Sebastian's 5th proper album (not including the soundtrack record to the Michael Mann film "Storey telling" which was pretty poor to be fair…). Much was made of producer Trevor Horne (the buggles, Franky goes to hollywood, Tatu) being at the helm this time. To be honest, I can't even to begin to understand their motives in this. But that said, it hasn't made that huge a difference. The string accompaniments might sound a bit more symphonic and everything a little more polished, but its no great leap into the space age compared to the last couple of records. I'm still counting it as a black mark against though.

Belle and Sebastian are never likely to trouble the avant-garde of the music world and start breaking down boundaries. As usual they play well-crafted pop songs with more than a whiff of the sixties about them. Opener “Step into my office baby” is propelled along by an Adam and the Ants esque drum beat. The title track wouldn’t gave sounded out of place on “if you’re feeling sinister” even if the backing Instrumentation is more, shall we say “Lavish” these days. As usual there is a wide variety of sound and instrumentation on show. This is most apparent on closer “Stay Loose” which goes from a verse which is more than reminiscent of “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie, before it flips into a Mod style chorus. Highly unorthodox. Also as it turns out, very effective.

If you were in the mood to pick at it, you could say this is hardly any real progression. You could pick any song on this record and draw parallels with another from an earlier Belle and Sebastian record. Some stronger than others. I however, am not in that kind of mood. My foot is tapping.

I doubt if Belle and Sebastian will ever recapture the spark that made the earlier records so memorable, this is definitely something of a return to form. Endlessly better than "Storytelling" and more consistent than "Fold your arms…". I know this is a successful Belle and Sebastian record, because I was singing along by the 2nd hearing.

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