Belle & Sebastian
The Boy with the Arab Strap
First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2000, Volume 7, #6
Written by John Metzger
For those who have not yet heard of Belle & Sebastian, the group has been eating up the college and indie radio charts for quite some time. Their breakthrough album — 1998's The Boy with the Arab Strap — is a remarkable effort, well deserving of more praise and press than it has received. Its songs are deeply rooted in '60s folk pop, and most are delivered with a happy-go-lucky, Donovan-esque air crossed with the dark, yet softer, side of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. At times, it's downright difficult to pinpoint in which decade this disc was released.
The dreamy melodies on songs like It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career, The Rollercoaster Ride, and Ease Your Feet in the Sea are soothing and uplifting even as the lyrics turn dark and morbid. Throughout it all, Belle & Sebastian builds a delicate collage of sound upon which to hang its wispy refrains. Acoustic guitar, bagpipe, hand claps, xylophone, strings, flute, organ, and trumpet all float by on a soft, sonic, summer breeze of youthful angst — drifting, searching, and hoping, while wallowing in its own self-pity.
The Boy with the Arab Strap isn't really a groundbreaking effort, but there's a charm in the way these Glasgow students deliver their songs that is quite simply irresistible. It's the kind of album that upon first hearing, feels immediately comfortable, yet leaves plenty to discover. It's addictive in nature, and you can't help returning for more. No wonder Belle & Sebastian has a cult following — one that's certain only to grow.
Of Further Interest...
The Boy with the Arab Strap is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box