From How to Solve Our Human Problems (Matador, 2018).
“The video is a small tribute to the amazing people who posed, modeled and enrolled to appear in our artwork for the How To Solve Our Human Problems EP releases.”
I spent a semester at the University of Aberdeen in 1991-92. My dorm room in Dunbar Halls (demolished in 2003) had a bed, a desk, and a sink. When I first arrived at my new home I was greeted by the 70-year-old porter who spoke entirely in Scotticisms with such a thick accent that I literally could not understand a word he said and he practically had to drag me to my room. In relatively short order I would be proficient enough to not only understand what everybody was saying, but I also could tell where anybody was from. Maybe not down to the neighborhood like Henry Higgins, but the region for sure. That knowledge fades fast. These days I can’t even determine if someone’s from Ireland or Wales. But I used to.
All the people I knew from Glasgow were good looking. And I’m sure that not everybody in a Belle and Sebastian video or record cover is from Glasgow, that’s what I remember them all looking like. The band goes for a certain look. And back in 2016 they asked their fans to submit headshots to use as artwork on their upcoming series of EPs. Over 1,100 applicants submitted photos and the band ultimately selected about 50 people to shoot professionally. These were used for the artwork on the How To Solve Our Human Problems EPs.
And as a Throwback Thursday a couple weeks ago, Belle and Sebastian made this “wee video” to honor those folks. And they’re all good looking, just as I remember them being.
It’s not every day you hear Belle and Sebastian use the f-word, but these are not normal days, my friends.
Though the world is fucked according to the news
Doesn’t get you out of what you have to do
Though the world is fucked and swinging to the right
Doesn’t get you out of what you have to do tonight
“This Letter” is a pretty bossa nova ditty in the form of a letter to a special friend. “All I want for you is joy and peaceful love / Who you get it from is not my main concern.” Wonder if these guys have been listening to Leonard Cohen?
Stuart Murdoch says, “After the Boaty Weekender I got the chance to make another video. With limited time, I called upon 3/4 of boat mates Wet Look to help me out. They play three tired film crew people, who just made a Belle and Sebastian video – but they quite fancy having a go at filming themselves, so they get hold of Super 8 cameras, and start messing about.”
Belle and Sebastian - "Sister Buddha" (Official Music Video)
From Days of the Bagnold Summer, due September 13 on Matador.
It’s always uplifting to hear a new Belle and Sebastian song. And “Sister Buddha” is no exception.
And if God won’t show Her face
Fall upon your loving soul’s embrace
And I’ll send you all the love that I can find
Days Of The Bagnold Summer is the soundtrack album to an upcoming filmed directed by Simon Bird. It’s based on a graphic novel by Joff Winterhart and features eleven new Belle and Sebastian songs, plus two re-recordings of oldies. The movie is set for release in 2020 but the soundtrack will be out in September.
It’s been almost twenty years since I first heard Belle and Sebastian. A good friend of mine had picked up The Boy with the Arab Strap. We would have house parties every weekend back then. There would be a cooler in a back yard with a case of Pabst buried in ice with a six pack of craft beer on top. This was how we rolled. Everybody brought their own beer anyway, so you’d always end up with plenty. In the late 90s my friends all lived within walking distance, or at least close enough. Dogs but no kids yet. There was music as loud as the neighbors and wives would tolerate, played on CDs in boomboxes.
A party like this is where I was introduced to these Scottish introverts, probably with a disclaimer that they were lispy and effeminate. I was totally into sixties garage punk and Neil Young and fifties rockabilly and Wilco back then, so I’m sure it was a hard sell.
There’s still nothing like a warm autumn night in Michigan. When being young and having your own place and a little bit of money and getting loaded with your friends was all you needed in life. Laughing until you cried, dancing until you were sore, arguing about stupid stuff. So fun.
This was the same friend who introduced me to the Lucksmiths a couple years later and really opened up my musical tastes to gentler sounds with clever lyrics. A lot has changed since then. Life goes in all sorts of unexpected directions. People drift apart, change. Divorces, new jobs, kids, death in the family, moves across the country. We no longer have those kinds of back yard parties.
But maybe we should. Maybe it’s time to bust out the coolers and fill them up with Pabst. Throw some good beer on top. Invite some friends over and see what happens.
We had a time
If we could have it back over again
I’d be a force…
If you’re a Belle and Sebastian fan who is concerned that the band has gotten a little too disco-y lately, this new song ought to reassure you. Acoustic guitars and an oboe take the spotlight in this amazingly sweet lullaby from a parent to their kid.
It’s tough to become a grown up
Put it off while you can
I tell you that when you land
In the real world, it’s like quicksand
That’s true. John Cougar once said to hang on to 16 as long as you can, and he wasn’t wrong about that either. Changes come around real soon.
If you haven’t been paying attention to Belle and Sebastian for a while you might not know that they’ve been messing around with dance music lately. In 2014 they released the disco homage “The Party Line” as a preview single for Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, and it’s retained its position on my playlist of “songs to improve moods on long car rides” (along with “Uptown Funk” and “Get Lucky”) since then.
“We Were Beautiful” is more melancholy than “The Party Line” but it features the Glaswegian approximation of the “Funky Drummer” beat, so that’s pretty cool. It also has pedal steel and a mariachi trumpet! Far out.
Lyrically, it’s sad and nostalgic like all the best Belle and Sebastian songs.
We were beautiful before this went down
We were beautiful before the years came and turned it upside down
We were beautiful before we got wise
Stuart Murdoch creates a perfect little snapshot of a world “where the women are oblique and the boys are paper thin, ragged beards upon their chin.” It shares a similar perspective to the The’s “Jealous of Youth” with the narrator reminiscing of days with “nothing on except our boots” and being “intimate around the waist.”
So what is it that “went down” to ruin everything? Life, man. Wisdom makes you old and haggard. Sorry to spoil it for you, kids, but it’s the truth. Use sunscreen and take care of your teeth. The passing of time and all of its crimes is making me sad again.
“Belle and Sebastian dig the Olympics, love the Olympic ideal, love that the world gets together for a big ‘sports day’ once every four years. We can’t be part of it, though we’d like to be. So we recorded a piece of music with Rio in mind: specifically the Track and Field. Here it is.”
It’s a fun little instrumental that makes you want to chuck a javelin or attempt a pole vault. Or something. Stuart Murdoch and co. are no strangers to the topic of track and field, having previously recorded a song about its stars being beautiful people.
I’ve seen a lot of criticism of big music festivals lately. Some of it is valid: the radius clauses imposed by organizers can clearly hurt local venues and the local music scene. And I can’t think of a single band I’ve seen outside that wouldn’t have been better inside a dark club or theater. That said, fests offer a lot of things that you’re just not going to get when you go to a regular show.
I went to the Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday and had a great time. There were three bands that I really wanted to see and several others that I was curious about. That’s enough for a solid day of music. You don’t need to love every single band. It’s good to have holes in your schedule so you can get some food, reapply sunscreen, and sit on a blanket in the shade. Downtime is essential if you don’t want to burn yourself out.
If you don’t have to travel too far, there’s no shame in getting a single day ticket. It’s important to realize that you don’t need to see everything. Don’t stress out about getting inside much before the start time of the first band you care about. On Saturday Phosphorescent was one of my three must-see bands and they started at 2:30. Sure, it might have been cool to see White Lung and Pissed Jeans, but you know what’s even cooler? A leisurely brunch at Wishbone.
We rolled in and found a good spot just in time to see Matthew Houck and his crew take the stage. The sun was beating down on us pretty hard, which made me happy we hadn’t arrived any earlier. Union Park is small enough that I could slip away for beer and be back before the end of the song.
After that, we threw down the blanket in a shady spot close enough to Trail of Dead’s stage so my pals could move up close for a while. During this chill time we met up with some other folks and spent some time critiquing the fashion choices of our fellow attendees. Happy to see nobody’s wearing corduroys in the summer anymore, but man, what’s up with all the half shirts?
We left the shade to check out Savages for a bit but got hungry after a few songs and left to eat some felafel under a tree.
At this point you might be wondering why I would spend $50 to sit on a blanket with my friends. And I would answer that sitting on a blanket with my friends is one of my favorite things to do at music festivals and something I never do anywhere other than at music festivals. I like drinking beer and eating felafels and watching people and listening to music. When something piques my interest I can get up and walk over and check it out.
I haven’t attended the Forkfest since 2010 but in past years I remember feeling old. Maybe it’s the fact that all the guys have geezer beards now, or maybe the Breeders and Belle and Sebastian appeal more to my demographic, but the crowd didn’t seem that young to me this year. But it’s still fun to see a bunch of weirdos baking in the sun while Swans pummel everyone.
I was excited to see the Breeders play Last Splash. It’s a meticulously produced album that is stranger sounding than almost any other alt-pop from the 90s. Live, though, they were perfectly shambolic. As my man JTL put it, they “brought the slacker cool epically.” I’ve seen the Pixies a few times since they reunited and I’ve never seen Kim Deal smile as much as she did on Saturday. They were scrappy and the mix wasn’t great, but whatever. The band was having fun and it was infectious.
After their set we jockeyed for a good position where we could still see Solange but be up close for Belle and Sebastian an hour later. B&S was the reason I bought tickets the day they went on sale. I saw them once before way back in 2006, and it was a great concert. If you think of them as wimpy and twee you really need to see them live. They rock harder than you’d think, and they put on a super entertaining show. There aren’t a ton of bands that I’d stand around in the rain to see, but Belle and Sebastian is one of them.
Once the rain got heavier, our densely packed spot opened up a little and we had enough room to put on ponchos and dance (gently). I kept looking up at the sky, nervous that the show would be stopped early as Bjork’s set had been the previous night. We were lucky and got a full set.
As we left the park my wet shoes squished through the grass and mud. Sure, there are things about fests that you can complain about, things that are less comfortable than they could be, things that are goofy or annoying, but like most things in life it’s about your attitude. If you go in with a good attitude you can have a good time. Realistic expectations and a flexible plan will help too.
A friend’s dad ran for state government back in the day with the slogan: Aim high, hang loose, keep moving. I’m not sure if he won or lost the election, but that’s my motto when I head into a fest. See you at Lollapalooza!
While Belle and Sebastian is putting the finishing touches on a new album, Stuart Murdoch’s side-project, God Help The Girl, releases a new single. And damn, one thing you can say about Murdoch is that he has incredible taste in women. From the cover stars of all of the B&S releases to all of the singers he selected for God Help The Girl, the guy knows a thing or two about feminine beauty.
This new song features Linnea Jönsson, and its b-side (a new version of “A Down and Dusky Blonde”) features Dina Bankole. Not sure if/when they’ll be available in the States, but you download the digital package (including the video) for £1.