Belle & Sebastian
The Boy with the Arab Strap
Mediocrity is not a punishable crime, but if it was, Belle & Sebastian
would be enjoying their last meal right about now. This Scottish septet,
who made a truly wonderful album last year called If You're Feeling
Sinister, has decided to parody themselves on their American debut,
The Boy with the Arab Strap. And a fine job they did, lads.
Whereas Sinister was filled with huge hooks, loungy chord change-ups,
and a fistful or two of bitingly catty lyrics, The Boy is seriously
lacking in all of that and more. Sinister was compared to Nick Drake
and Fairport Convention; The Boy will maybe remind you of the Starland
Vocal Band. These are songs so sticky they should be hanging from Ben Stiller's
ear, and I don't mean that in a good way.
The band's spacey experiment in spoken word isn't a plus, and neither are the
wilted bouquets of bedroom poetry. Are we still learning from the Mel Bay book
of guitar? Where are the interesting chords? Only the title cut offers up
something fun, and that just sounds like a glorified Hollies song.
Really, Sinister is well worth your time, but whatever an Arab Strap
is, it should be used to batten down the crap song hatch. Maybe next time they'll
get it back together. I hope so.
-Jason Josephes, October, 1998