Belle & Sebastian : Storytelling

Belle & Sebastian : Storytelling

Who knows, this mouse might yet roar...

It’s the grandest of follies, surely, for Belle & Sebastian to release their half instrumental soundtrack to Todd ‘Happiness’ Solondz’s poorly received arthouse movie about ego-crazed writers shagging each other when, somewhere in the world, a pub is showing football. The very concept of this album strikes black dread in the hearts of all but the most hardened fan of dreary Scottish indie, and even they must be preparing to stab themselves repeatedly in the eyes with their Hello Kitty badges in order to stay awake for the whole thing.

But, hey, come back! Having cigar-chomping Hollywood producers over their shoulders shouting “this mimsy Scotch shit don’t cut it, buster! Geddem blubbin’ in the aisles or you’re dead in this town!” seems to have imbued B&S with a bit of musical backbone. It’s a game of two halves, and the largely wordless first half – written for the film’s opening ‘Fiction’ segment – is a revelation. Piano laments like ‘Fiction’ and ‘Freak’ stir up more emotional gristle than B&S‘s entire recorded output to date, while the harmonica drawl of ‘Fuck This Shit’ resembles a magnificently pissed Lambchop doing the ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ theme. Better still is ‘Consuelo”s sun-baked Hispanic trumpet serenade.

Sadly there’s still the odd slice of hippy shuffling like ‘Black And White Unite’, for which the whole band should be beaten to death with copies of Simon & Garfunkel’s soundtrack to ‘The Graduate’. But this is the exception on this startlingly vibrant record: consider instead ‘Storytelling’ – a wagged finger at Solondz’s lack of cinematic morality – which rattles jauntily along like a pre-bollocks Divine Comedy, the delightful flamenco frippery of ‘Wandering Along’, the punk Monkees of ‘Scooby Driver’ or the state-the-fucking-obvious ballad ‘I Don’t Want To Play Football’, which is a bit like Slipknot writing a song called ‘Brass Rubbing Equals Shit’.

Belle & Sebastian are still far from will only ever be – ooh – about an eighth as good as Gorky’s, who they sound like in their dreams, but ‘Storytelling’ is the first indication that Stuart Murdoch has finally got some decent red meat down his gob and he’s no longer resigned to wallowing in his dank indie mire until The Pastels come home. Who knows, this mouse might yet roar.

Mark Beaumont