Tuesday, March 10, 2015

If you're feeling introspective about IF YOU'RE FEELING SINISTER

If You're Feeling SinisterIf You're Feeling Sinister by Scott Plagenhoef
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was particularly good at relating the appeal of Belle & Sebastian, which is not the easiest thing to do.  Thanks largely to one line from Jack Black's character in HIGH FIDELITY, B&S are regarded as sad bastard music, when in fact, they are sneaky bastard music. Stuart Murdoch's art lies somewhere mid the line between Morrissey's Vegas-sized dispesia with himself, love and the world and Stephin Merritt's open distaste for it. I think Murdoch likes his little corner of the world, the cadre of misfits who parade through it and correctly views the rest of mankind as dangerous and/or tedious. But the deal with B&S is that their melodrama is an embrace of adolescence rather than a continuance of it.

I never knew the backstory about Murdoch's long period of isolation recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome basically birthing the songs from TIGERMILK fully formed into the world.  The first track, "The State I'm In," is one of the greatest things indie rock has done. If TIGERMILK had been his/B&S's only release, it would give creedence to the "everybody's got one good album in them" theory, but truth is, they continued and eveolved and wrote even greater songs (at least up through THE LIFE PURSUIT, anyway).

Granted, the book talks more about TIGERMILK (only at the very end does it really delve into SINISTER at a fine level) and probably should be named for the first records. But if that doesn't really hang you up, this book does a good job watching the incubation and hatching of a little genius band wthout blowing it out of scale. And like every good 33 1/3 book, it made listening to a great record and even more rewarding experience, even if it didn't go through it micron-by-micron.

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The book's discussions of C-86 scene in Scotland made me want to listen to that whole delightfully scrappy era of indie pop, particularly Orange Juice, whose "Rip It Up" titles this little handy but not totally Scottish playlist, which, unlike the book, culminates in IF YOU'RE FEELING SINISTER in detail.

To cap it off, all this Scotland-climate preciousness coupled with this dour rainy weather we're having led me to write this twee bossa nova about staying in. Contains a little cussing. Enjoy!

Alex V. Cook - "Nasty"

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