Number 45 – ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister – Belle and Sebastian (1996) – Chosen by Badger
So it was I think back in 1998 when I first stumbled across Belle and Sebastian, there I was idly flicking through Teletext on Channel 4 – they as it happens ran a pretty good music page, Planet Sound it was called, and it was quite indie friendly, which you would expect from Channel 4. I discovered Belle and Sebastian because their 1997 single ‘Dog On Wheels’ was voted Single of the Year by Planet Sound. A title which I scoffed at for being overly indie and a bit ‘wimpy’, I think I may have called them ‘saps’. Then I listened to them, again and again, thanks largely to my wife (or not quite wife at the time).
‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ has pretty much been a permanent thing in my life since 1999. It is such a lovely album, its poetic, it’s funny, as wonderfully melodic as it is ramshackle, as close to Dylan as it is the Velvet Underground. I totally love it and yet I don’t really understand it at all. I’ll also add that like so many of the albums on this list, the first side is flawless.
In Stuart Murdoch, famously, publicity shy, we have something special, not only a wonderful songwriter but also a singer who engages and speaks to his fans, fans who have by and large grown up with them. He delivers songs that are cynical, romantic and slightly odd. The lyrics are full of characters as well – perhaps the only other popstar of recent years who has done that as well would be Jarvis Cocker I think. Take ‘Me and the Major’ we meet a grumpy old chap who wants to listen Roxy Music. The song itself is a rollocking folk rock strum with added harmonica.
What Mrs Badger loves about Belle and Sebastian is that there is escapism. Usually through the medium of music or books. This I think is clear in ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’ which sees Murdoch staring out the window at the rain pondering life itself, it’s a song about frustration, probably creative frustration and it’s a wonderful pop song.
On top of all that There is ‘Seeing Other People’ which is far and away their greatest song. A song that when it was left out of the WYCRA 200 I was so enraged with SWC that I refused to speak to him for four hours. It has that piano hook at the start. Its upbeat, jazzy, joyful and sad all at the same time. It’s a song about the sexual experimentation of two lads and its done with sympathy and humour ‘you’re going to have to go with girls/you might be better off/at least they know where to put it’.