Release Date: Nov 18, 2008
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Belle and Sebastian cut their first BBC session for the Mark Radcliffe Show in July of 1996 just a few months before their seminal If You're Feeling Sinister album was released. The four songs they recorded were live and intimate versions of three of the record's best tracks: "Like Dylan in the Movies," "Judy and the Dream of Horses," and "Stars of Track and Field. " Hearing these songs (as well as "The State I Am In," from Tigermilk) in such a raw and unadorned state (complete with vocal wavers and assorted bum notes) isn't a revelation now, though one can imagine people tuned in to their radios that night were thrown for a loop, but it is pretty great.
Although the Glaswegian indie pop juggernaut based around Stuart Murdoch sadly appears to have lost the plot - there are no present plans to record a follow-up to 2006's The Life Pursuit - this BBC Sessions two-disc set brings us back to the happier times of their Jeepster years, 1996-2001. This is Belle and Sebastian near their creative peak, with Isobel Campbell still present, long before the terrible idea of bringing Trevor Horn into the studio with them as a producer had crossed their minds and they still had no good reason to use the word "catastrophe" in an album title. Performing live in the BBC studios affords the group the ability to stretch out and test the new song ideas that made these one-off recordings so sought after by the group's most ardent sweater-clad fans.
"The most dangerous band in the world", Stuart from Mogwai once called his fellow Glaswegians, and it’s easy to see why. In the period this collection covers, Belle & Sebastian released five albums worth of material (counting the 3 immaculate EPs from 1997), indirectly established the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival (now run by their mate who put on the Bowlie Weekender), and gave us yet another reminder of the rabid lunacy (if not festering evil at the heart) of Pete Waterman, unable to comprehend that a non-manufactured band could deserve a Brit Award... or command enough devotion to inspire block voting over the newfangled interweb.
The BBC Sessions traces five sessions Belle and Sebastian recorded for the BBC from 1996 to 2001, and the volume knobs are turned down low pretty much throughout. Frontman Stuart Murdoch adds a little guitar jangle to ”The Stars of Track and Field” and frisks up ”Like Dylan in the Movies” a bit, but these live tracks sound very much like their studio counterparts. That’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t exactly make this set a must-have, either.
Belle and Sebastian have not been shy about compiling and re-releasing early material. In 2000, Jeepster put out a box set of the Dogs on Wheels, Lazy Line Painter Jane, and 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light EPs from 1996. In 2005, Push Barman to Open Old Wounds collated all the old Jeepster EPs and ….
Nothing golden can stay, but from 1996 to 2001, Belle And Sebastian were bronzed gods of indie pop. Stuart Murdoch’s troupe was above it all: immune to such mundane concerns as interviews and photo shoots, imbued with their own creation myth at Glasgow’s Stow College and so peerless that people forgot about the Smiths for a while. So it’s with some nostalgia that The BBC Sessions—live in-studio performances of songs mostly culled from the group’s first three albums—arrives as a snapshot of the years when B&S ruled the school.