Saturday, February 17, 2007

Classic Pick: - Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastophe Waitress (2003)

"I said goodbye to someone that I love.
It’s not just me, I tell you it’s the both of us."
Belle & Sebastian

With their quirky, often melancholic, angst driven songs, Belle & Sebastian have gained quite an enthusiastic following from a college crowd who like having their music served via the college and internet radio waves, rather than eating the repetitive drivel offered by our local radio puppets. The smartly subtle lyrics, gently delivered over sad acoustic melodies, was what endeared them to their fans.(Just check out their previous CD recordings, “Tigermilk” and “If Your Feeling Sinister” for a Belle and Sebastian 101).

But with the 2003 release of “Dear Catastrophe Waitress“, B & S do a jaw-dropping 180° turn and create some of the catchiest and down-right cheery, if not eccentric, pop songs ever. And they make this wonderful music without sacrificing one iota of the peculiar song writing that has become their trademark. It truly works!

Taking their name from a TV kid show, Scottish band Belle & Sebastian had previously recorded five albums before meeting up with pop wizard/producer, Trevor Horn. In his hands, Stuart Murdoch (singer-songwriter) and Stuart David (bass player) finally put together the perfect album. Sounding like Squeeze smothered in10cc, the album opens with the band imagining being seduced by the boss. ”I’ve got to change my ways. Dress for business every day. A smart suit and a kipper tie. A big arrow pointing to my fly”. (“Step Inside My Office, Baby”).

“If I could do just one near perfect thing, I’d be happy. They’d write it on my grave or when they scattered my ashes”. (“If She Wants Me”), has a very retro 70’s sound and could easily be mistaken for Todd Rundgren. In the wonderfully confusing song, “Piazza, New York Catcher”, Murdoch sings, “Elope with me Miss Private and we’ll sail around the world. I will be your Ferdinand and you my wayward girl”. This song rhymes like Dylan and sounds like Donovan.

If you hunger for early B & S, “Lord Anthony”, a song about a boy, bullied, was written several years ago and would have been an easy fit on “Sinister”. Belle & Sebastian admit to calling on a higher power singing, “If you find yourself caught in love. Say a prayer to the man above. You should thank him for every day you pass. Thank him for saving your sorry ass.” (“If You Find Yourself Caught In Love”).

Perhaps the best song from the CD is “I’m A Cuckoo” which pays homage to Thin Lizzy, even borrowing, ever so lightly, the riff from “Boys Are Back In Town”, as well as swiping a little of the lingo. (Lizzy fans will understand).

Many longtime followers of Belle & Sebastian believe the band has sold out with this pop offering. I would argue that it is much harder writing cheerful melodies than sad ones. And seeing how the songwriting is as strong as ever, I look at this album as a natural progression and a welcomed one. As Belle & Sebastian sing on this CD, “If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy”.
You just did, guys. (1st appear. Vantage/Newman U.)

Belle & Sebastian -->"If She Wants Me" off Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003) (Must Own)

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