Belle and Sebastian | The BBC Sessions

Matador (2008)
By ZETH LUNDY  |  November 18, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Call 'em twee or call 'em bookish (after all, they did take their name from a French children's book), but don't call Belle & Sebastian anemic.

Before the Glaswegians toned their rock muscles with latter-period albums like The Life Pursuit, they would often lead their pedantic indie-pop out of the bedroom and, like any good UK band, into the BBC studios. They sound looser on these sessions, which were recorded between 1996 and 2001 and are collected here for the first time. Songs like "Sleep the Clock Around" and "Seymour Stein" crackle with a jammy, warts-and-all aesthetic that plays against the band's fine-tailored type.

Songwriter Stuart Murdoch often makes good on Morrissey's promise to deliver songs that live up to their titles: "Like Dylan in the Movies," "The Stars of Track and Field," and "Shoot the Sexual Athlete" are all loaded with words and giddy with mixed emotions. That last track is one of the four songs on The BBC Sessions that the band concocted circa 2001 but never officially released. Other obscurities include "The Magic of a Kind Word," an early-aughts approximation of Buffalo Springfield, and "Nothing in the Silence," a piece thick with the atmosphere of vibes and harmonica.

OK, so maybe it's not exactly a riot of unfettered energy and sound, but it nonetheless takes guts to be this pretty.

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