Belle & Sebastian : The Boy With The Arab Strap

Eight years on and still they come. The Teenage Fanclub bandwagon has passed but the stragglers trundle on ...

EIGHT YEARS ON AND STILL THEY come. The Teenage Fanclub bandwagon has passed but the stragglers trundle on. There we might leave Dubliners The Hormones but for the fact that within an album that veers towards lazy indie mediocrity, singer Marc Carroll has included enough moments of blinding musical clarity to make this more than a footnote to a bygone pop era.

While their tunes can be over-melodic and lyrically cloying, there's a determination about The Hormones which subverts their excesses. Take 'Stay Ahead', an embittered rant against an impatient music industry disguised as a jolly pop song, and while this might be the spirit of a champion locked inside the music of a loser, The Hormones have dotted surprises elsewhere. Most notably the belligerent ceilidh-rock of 'Dig Like Merry Hell' which roisters along like a coltish Shane MacGowan before dissolving into a full-on Riverdance to the death. That the album closes with a sparse quasi-mystical ballad might indicate that there's more to Marc Carroll than likeable dross.

At worst then, this is a pointless reassertion of pop values in a blighted age where firebombs and thunderstorms cannot shift the Garbage album from the Top 20. At best the fumbling first steps of a future hero.
8 / 10

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