The BBC Sessions
The Belle And Sebastian we know now – the group that does proper interviews, plays mainstream festivals and sells out the Hollywood Bowl – is a far different proposition to the one on this collection. These sessions are taken from 1996-2001, stretching from the release of their classic debut ‘Tigermilk’ through to the band’s departure from the Jeepster label as well as the exit of Isobel Campbell. The latter events helped signal the end of the group’s awkward insularity.
During this period, any glimpse into the inner workings of the seemingly mysterious Scots collective was pounced on by their extraordinarily devoted fans. To them, these sessions were their Holy Grail – and it’s not difficult to surmise why. The simple fact is that this incarnation of B&S was as good as ‘traditional’ indie gets. Loads of classics are here – a near-perfect take on the vaguely funky ‘Slow Graffiti’, a joyous, stridently uplifting ‘Judy And The Dream Of Horses’ and, best of all, an embryonic run-through of what would become 1997 single ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’. But there is also a raft of sturdy unreleased tracks (including the reassuringly fey ‘Shoot The Sexual Athlete’), which only serve to reinforce what a creative roll Stuart Murdoch and co were on at the time.
There’s still a lot to love about B&S, but there was something magical, otherworldly even, about them during this period that this compilation captures perfectly.