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Belle and Sebastian
STORYTELLING
(MATADOR)

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Scottish indie-pop classicists Belle and Sebastian have acquired an obsessive global fan base in their five-year career thanks to a timeless, folky sound that brings to mind everything from the fey melancholia of the Smiths to the dim beauty of cult folkie Nick Drake to the crisp, playful ease of the Peanuts themesong. Storytelling is actually packaged as soundtrack to the Todd Solondz film of the same name, even though barely six minutes of the music here was used in the final cut of the film, and much of the album is said to have been finished after the film was completed. Nevertheless, it makes for a fascinating match of two parties obsessed with repression and being bullied.

But whereas Solondz seems fascinated by the cruel and pathetic, Belle and Sebastian write songs about the soft and awkward. And whereas Solondz mercilessly needles and prods his filmsí hapless boys and girls, Belle and Sebastian are as sympathetic as they come, as in "I Donít Want To Play Football" and the winsome, harmonica-laced "Fuck This Shit." The Latin-flavored "Wandering Alone," the soft, surf-punky "Scooby Driver," and the vibes-inflected "Big John Shaft" attest to the groupís cheerier side, balancing the dour instrumentals that dominate the albumís first half. In the context of the biting snippets of Storytelling film dialogue interspersed throughout the record, Belle and Sebastianís songs about lifeís mundane defeats confirm the groupís status as the slyest and craftiest of storytellers.

BY HUA HSU

Issue Date: July 25 - August 1, 2002
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