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Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
CD Review: Belle and Sebastian
Belle and Sebastian
Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant (Jeepster)
By BBC News Online's Chris Charles

For all their proclamations, declarations and protestations, Belle and Sebastian's motto is surprisingly simple. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

When you've carved a career out of refusing to compromise, refusing to accept anything but the past and refusing to speak to the press, what's the point in risking everything by taking a break from the norm?

Let's face it, Glasgow's finest are never going to rival Motorhead in the megawatts department, but then the idea of Lemmy bleating soppy ballads doesn't really...

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is Belle and Sebastian as you've always heard them before and you can't help but love them for it.

Belle and Sebastian
Quirky press shots are part of the band's image
One look at the unnecessarily lengthy title of their fourth album tells you they're as eccentric/ pretentious/humorous as ever and any deviation from the familiar path of twee would be tantamount to heresy.

Stuart Murdoch is once again the chief protagonist. His calming, ever-so-slightly off-key tones are as captivating as ever, reciting his tales of woe with barely a flicker of emotion.

On I Fought A War he is the soldier who left his girl behind to make "shells back home for a steady boy to wear".

The Model sees him admit he's "OK with the girl next door who's famous for showing her breasts", despite being painted as "the fraud I really was" by his confidante.

Once again, all the main players are boys and girls rather than men and women - maybe B&S are simply too old to grow up.

Folk law

Musically the album observes the same blueprint as its predecessors - subtle guitars, soothing string arrangements, brassy bursts and tip-tapping drums.

Folk law is observed at all times and while there are variations on the tempo, the volume rarely dares raise itself above a murmur.

Violinist Sarah Martin makes her songwriting debut on the wonderful Beyond The Sunrise, with vocals switching from an Iggy Pop-style growl to her own angelic delights, as a lone bell straight out of a Clint Eastwood Western tolls in the distance.

The gun-toting theme is maintained in Nice Day For A Sulk, with a subtle twist on the infamous outlaws' tale which recounts "Bobby drank too much and fell in the Clyde", while The Chalet Lines is a gruesome tale of male rape.

Belle and Sebastian
The band's 1999 Brit Awards victory upset the pop establishment

It's hard to find a chink in the armour, with Women's Realm perhaps one of the only songs that borders on good rather than great on what is an absolute peach of a record.

The defining moment comes with Murdoch's Don't Leave The Light On Baby - a late night bar-room lament from a lonely pianist reflecting on "a bloody stupid day".

The album closes with the jaunty There's Too Much Love and as the last strains of strings pale into the distance, Belle and Sebastian can congratulate themselves on another successful day at the office.

What you expect to hear is pretty much what you get and if you don't like it, you can take it up with the band. Outside the poetry recital hall, now.

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25 Feb 00 | New Music Releases
CD Review: Belle and Sebastian
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