Release Date: Jun 23, 2009
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Soundtrack
Stuart Murdoch’s latest project requires some explanation. It’s not a Belle & Sebastian album, but the members of Belle & Sebastian perform on it, and two of the 14 tracks are covers of the group’s songs. Murdoch sings on it, too; but doesn’t take the lead role that he does in his main gig. But just as much as Belle & Sebastian, and as much as the material he’s put out under his own name, God Help the Girl is a Stuart Murdoch project.
Hearing the words "girl group" and "musical" in close proximity can chill you to the marrow: they somehow evoke the image of Claire Sweeney wowing the Aldershot Theatre Royal in a beehive wig. Nevertheless, both figure heavily in this project from Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, "a story set to music" influenced by "fabulous girl groups". There's nothing here to mystify fans of his day job: the vocalists are drawn from the ranks of sloe-eyed young ladies who have decorated Belle & Sebastian's sleeves, the heroine is a misunderstood, mentally unstable girl - misunderstood, mentally unstable girls being to Murdoch what cars are to Bruce Springsteen - and virtually every song could fit on to a Belle and Sebastian album.
There’s a danger in this opening paragraph of wringing the very meaning out of the word “eponymous,” so it’s probably best to start from the beginning. God Help the Girl is the name of a film written by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, due out next year. For the accompanying songs - one of which is called God Help the Girl - Murdoch has created a group called God Help the Girl and their soundtrack is entitled God Help the Girl.
The self-titled album by God Help the Girl, a new project by Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, features narratively linked songs sung by a handful of females who occasionally duet with Murdoch himself. Supposedly the soundtrack for an upcoming film, it's bound to go over well with B&S fans, since two tracks actually are B&S songs, while the other 12 are quintessentially Murdochian: sweet, bright and twee even as the content darkens. [rssbreak] The vague plot line seems to follow the downward spiral of a nameless main character, sung by Catherine Ireton, whose voice is angelic and fluttery.
Scottish Idol: now 300% more sensitiveWhile Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch seems a bit retiring for the role of Simon Cowell, his process of auditioning female vocalists for the pseudo-musical God Help the Girl really should have been filmed. While one presumes vocalist Catherine Ireton has a bit more hipster flare than Susan Boyle, her discovery is in itself quite stunning, as her girly charm out-Zooeys Zooey on the title track. Add two vocalists who won an online competition, Asya from teen band Smoosh and a few instrumental tracks, and it’s fresh without being much of a departure from Murdoch’s previous work.
"Girl singer needed for autumnal recording project," the ad in the paper said. "Autumnal," of course, being the Queen's-- and the critics'-- preferred English for, uh, "fall-like." You know that song where, when people talk about the fall, Jens Lekman thinks they're talking about Mark E. Smith? Stuart Murdoch probably thinks they're talking about the Garden of Eden.
The other big problem with God Help the Girl is the very fact that most of the songs sound exactly like Belle & Sebastian. Put "I'll Have to Dance with Cassie," "Musician, Please Take Heed," "Come Monday Night," and "A Down and Dusky Blonde" on a B&S record with Stuart's vocals and they would fit right in. That in itself isn't a real problem; the fact that too many of them feel like less than thrilling B&S songs is.
Review Summary: A slight change of tact for Stuart Murdoch produces a solid, if slightly underwhelming album.In his recent press for new project God Help The Girl, Stuart Murdoch hasn't promoted the group so much as he's defended the decision to form it, and that defence has, without fail, used the word 'glamour'. For the past 3 months, it seems to be all he's talked about. There's no glamour in being in a pop band.
Click here to get your copy of ‘God Help The Girl’ from the Rough Trade shop.
The sheer amount of next-level twee showcased on the Belle & Sebastian frontman’s latest project — positioned as the soundtrack to an imaginary movie, no less — may send some listeners screaming for the nearest Black Sabbath boxed set. But anyone with a penchant for sparkling chamber-pop melodies, string-laden swells, and Broadway-baby pizzazz will swoon for God Help the Girl. Murdoch’s new muse, Catherine Ireton, lends her ingenue vocals to nearly every track,? and while her style seems better suited to the stage, the album dips and? twirls along, like some lost ’60s musical excavated from its sweet celluloid slumber.