Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

If You're Feeling Sinister

Belle and Sebastian
The twee shall inherit the earth.

Belle and Sebastian's delicate pop-folk tunes and wry wordplay only work if you put some effort into unraveling their shy subtleties; that and the distribution problems that initially plagued the sprawling Scottish group ensured that their embryonic fan base would consist of no one but the keenly committed. Such humble and seemingly doomed beginnings actually helped this cult band/case study: Released first in late 1996, B&S's second album, If You're Feeling Sinister, is the sound of marginally skilled musicians struggling to manage the deceptively difficult feat of singing and playing soft yet fast, and it's just barely within their grasp. Years before he and the band perversely hooked up with mega-producer Trevor Horn, singer-songwriter Stuart Murdoch crooned in an unsteady cry that hit only a few more notes than it missed, and the sprightly tempos continuously fluctuate, but the effort of the performances and the beauty of the compositions will astound if you let them. "All I wanted was to sing the saddest songs, "Murdoch ruefully admits in "The Boy Done Wrong Again," but there's too much joy in the punkishly twee instrumentation and darkly humored lyrics for him to achieve this goal. True to the perversity of the cult hero, Murdoch's failure remains our gain.