Belle and Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant

Elisabeth Vincentelli

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Recorded for the Beeb between 1996 and 2001, these sessions capture Belle and Sebastian at their most strummy and sensitive — the overall pace is an easy canter, with fairly conservative indie arrangements. This may have something to do with the fact that B&S were playing live relatively rarely in those years, and were far from the exuberant stage beast it's since become. The pulse only raises occasionally ("I Could Be Dreaming," the fantastically urgent "Sleep the Clock Around") but mostly the band takes its time here. Note that "Wrong Love" would eventually turn up on the 2000 album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant as "The Wrong Girl."

These early sessions capture an early B&S, slightly unpolished but as winsome as ever

But the real treat is the last four songs. Taken from a May 2001 John Peel session, these tracks have been widely — if unofficially — circulated among fans, their cult status minted by the fact that they never made it to a proper album and are the last ones recorded with singer/cellist Isobel Campbell, who left the band in 2002. "Shoot the Sexual Athlete" starts off like some bizarre early Lou Reed leftover while the super-'60s-sounding "The Magic of a Kind Word" sports lovely boy-girl harmonies straight from the Free Design songbook. "Nothing in the Silence" is a nice showcase for Campbell, while "(My Girl's Got) Miraculous Technique" is a bit wobbly but has a lovely string hook. Taken a group, these songs may not be on par with the rest of the Belle & Sebastian catalog (though with a bit of studio polish "Kind Word" could easily have made it onto an LP) but they are historically significant as they mark the end of the B&S 1.0 era.