The Life Pursuit – Belle and Sebastian
Matador Records 695-2
In the delightfully clever liner notes for the new Belle and Sebastian sterling slab, there are numerous letters from fans to the band. They sound authentic and are answered by various band Sebastianators with responses laced in sincerity and cynicism — my particular brand of tea bag. I thought it appropriate to write my own letter to leader, singer, vitriolic lyric meisterbrah Stuart Murdoch. He has much to answer for while combining 1960s-era Happy Pop with Snotty Bob lyric kiss-offs and the sort of hyped up jangly guitars, snakebite vocals and uptempo keyboards that never go out of fashion in my quadrant of jukebox heaven. Rock Crit Haggler’s Advice: If you’re going to fork over the dollar/pounds for this gem, try to get a deal on the bonus DVD — proof in the pale vanilla pudding that a band doesn’t have to be pristine, crystal clear, GQ-beautiful to make… uh, beautiful noise.
Wassup, Scottish house brah? How’s Glasgow? How’s the American Tour shapin’ up? Don’t do the Chicago airline layover if you want to get to your next destination ASAP. Watch out for the Yank birds; they don’t give your innocence back. See you on the road.
Randy An American Git
P.S. About this new album. Too long. If you’re going to go the '60s retro pop nirvana mixed with 21st century post-breakup angst route, allow the drama and ear candy to unfold over 40 minutes. Don’t fill out the whole little round cup coaster like so many other less talented tone deaf bandidos. Just a bit of long-winded advice from the LP-head — two sides, 20 minutes a pop = yesteryear treasure trove. Other than that…
P.S.S. (P.P.S.?is that considered pornographic in a family publication?) WOW, man. What a wonderful set of thirteen songs that can be mixed, di(Pod)ced, shuffled and cherry picked into juicy oblivion. Plus, the Bingo/Mahjong Old Coot set can spin this as a straight LP version with two sides of six and seven songs, respectively — the colorful hooks paint the fields of ear dreams and ring true, long and memorable.
Side ALet’s catalogue the sugar cavity crimes, shall we? The album opens with version uno of “Act of the Apostle,” and immediately one is transported to a killer hit from UK-AM radio 1965 with a warm blankie hook, comforting piano tone and a Murdoch message of relaxed bite: “the crazy hippies, they’re running scared; she shut her eyes and imagined the desert.” We’ve got Mods vs. Rockers from the git go and you’re either in or outso throw out the stylistically maudlin Stones and put on The ’oo, mates. Dig the melodies handed from a magically long lost Donovan meets Nico muse.
The rest of the enchanting Side A is a mere prelude to the GOLD resting on the flippant flip side as “Another Sunny Day” and the pop rainbow glow rub button-up shirted shoulders with the employment class rant of “White Collar Boy” with its catchy organ and snarky chorus. “The Blues Are Still Blue” somehow captures Velvet Underground with Eno-era Bowie on lead vocalsnice, indeed. The turning point comes with “Dress Up In You” as a slow manic depressive waltz segues into “they act so discreet, they are hypocrites so fuck them, too” and, immediately following that bit of sharp dagger, a trumpet solo that has the hair on the neck doin’ a two step, tout de suite. “Sukie in the Graveyard” echoes pre-Eno-era Bowie with clever lyrics and sassy dirty pant vocals.
Side B and the reason for extremely early 2006 Top 10 LP status“Song for Sunshine” has that blissful rush of a chorus that just runs over and over in your head as you hit track 8 (Lucky 8, mate) again and again, ad infinitum. THE Song of the Year for my easy to please (y)ears, thus far. “Funny Little Frog,” "To Be Myself Completely” and “For the Price of a Cup of a Tea” gang up in a jukebox juggernaut of 45-single glafloria (I have no idea) in a mean, frontal attack on “Song for Sunshine” and, suddenly, we have this wonderful battle of Top the Past Riff where every floppy ear is a winner.
Coda“Mornington Crescent” is, in a word(s), an unexpected masterpiece. The album comes to a close with the same delicious momentum that it began with an out of this world outtake from the Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” that melds a cool and assured melody with perfect guitar, organ and, again, Murdoch shining in his element: “I was a joker, the wannabe punk that got lucky, had a good time, life became fruitless, egotistic swine to all your friends, all the ladies and the men, the possibilities suggest themselves to me, we’re a little too free.” A little? This track is post-nervous breakdown mind phantasms.
Sidebarthe three chicks on the cover, back of the CD, inside the liner notes for sassy/degenerate Catholic School/whathaveya/’Hey there, stranger’ art design purposes: Alex Klobouk, Natasha Noramly and Marisa Priviteradon’t give a rat’s patootie if they can’t play a note or carry a tune in a wheelbarrowHIRE THEM TODAY. As in NOW. Get them into Belle and Sebastian: tambourine, washboard, silent congo, unplugged microphone, etcYou’ll thank me later as the War of the Worlds concludes between Ear and Eye Candy. Well done, cheers and all the rest of that.