The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Why Belle and Sebastian Are
the Most Important Band On Earth


And since when is being lightweight so terrible? Get used to it, latter-day hipsters. For nearly a decade now, Belle and Sebastian have demonstrated that there exists on this planet . . . yes, maybe even in your town, on your block . . . a vast, slowly gathering audience still hungry for clever catchy melodies, unabashedly twee lyrics and an overall atmosphere that their sensibilities might just be a little more delicate than yours or mine. It's the Bubblegum era all over again, friends, but without all the social baggage that stopped it dead in its tracks 35 years ago. Belle and Sebastian don't exactly exploit the inner-dweeb in their audience. I mean, theirs isn't a cynical exercise on the scale of so many of the so-called Alternative acts that preceded their debut on the scene or, God help us, the Boy Band cycle that followed. They've been able to outlast mass-market trends with music that, yes, goes against all grain and flies well under the commercial radar because their public (me included) basically found them. That's why their ascendence has been so slow in coming . . . and so welcome.

Few people who don't want to appear complete wusses to their peer group have ever admitted to liking music such as that which Belle and Sebastian spin out with what seems so little effort. When you think about it, it's a little bit like standing on a chair at the Filmore in 1970 with a bullhorn and testifying to one's love for The Archies. And here's where we find that a curious reversal of the phenomenon of rebellion takes place. I daresay that the really hardcore Belle and Sebastian fans have any embarassment at all proclaiming their affection for music as lightweight in virtually every respect as the most throwaway filler on a second-tier Paul Revere & The Raiders LP. To them it's unsurpassingly cool and it frees them to tell anyone who doesn't like it that they can either fuck themselves or go listen to Creed (whichever is less pleasurable).

And what isn't liberating about feeling empowered to hand out a choice like that?

6 comments :

Rob said...

Jeez, I thought from the title you were talking about the charming French TV show! ;-) But, yes, they are pleasant listening. Gimme the Fugs, tho.

BCNU,

Tom Sutpen said...

Oh, hear hear, Rob. My point was simply that a band offering pleasant, intelligent and entertaining listening these days are almost by definition a pack of musical rebels. I love Belle and Sebastian's music, but they aren't even my favorite band of the last 10 years. That honorific goes to The Brian Jonestown Massacre (with Pavement and The Flaming Lips vying for close second).

(I love The Fugs)

swac said...

Heh...I'm currently using a set of Brian Jonestown Massacre drink coasters. Sometimes I get excellent swag at work.

I'd never heard of Belle and Sebastian before a friend of mine who was in a band signed to the ill-fated U.S. label The Enclave slipped me a pre-release version of If You're Feeling Sinister (also an Enclave release on these shores...briefly) and it was the first time I felt like someone had ingested The Village Green Preservation Society and was emitting it through their pores.

Granted, the word "twee" was practically invented for this band, but I didn't care, it was charming and insanely catchy, but a little dark around the edges. And, I can't stress this enough, chicks seem to dig 'em.

As opposed to the Fugs, although if I could find a gal who owned a copy of It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest, my fate would likely be sealed.

Tom Sutpen said...

Stephen wrote:

As opposed to the Fugs, although if I could find a gal who owned a copy of It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest, my fate would likely be sealed.

*****
I was seriously in love with a woman back in my 20s who not only liked The Fugs, but also liked the MC5, The Stooges, The Velvets AND "Pet Sounds" (and I've never found another woman who liked that album).

Ahhhh . . . so many wonderful hours. Just her, and me, and our record collections.

And to think, we came THIS close to getting married.

swac said...

There's someone in my immediate sphere who's very much into Pet Sounds and the Velvets (her band even covers Who Loves the Sun). And I'd...
(rest of post deleted in the name of common sense)

Rob said...

Many years ago I worked with a savvy young woman who walked into my office one day and laid a copy of ICIMHO LP on my desk, and said, "I heard you talking about these guys - they are seriously fucked up! Keep this." Then she laughed so hard, she spilled coffee on her cream-colored dress. Jeez, I'dda married that gal!... if I wasn't already hitched to someone else who let me play "Golden Filth" on occaision. The Lesbian Dwarves rule.

BCNU