Music / Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian is a Scottish indie pop band which have been compared to The Smiths and Bob Dylan. They often couple sweet, soft and hummable melodies with surprisingly cynical and provocative lyrics. The band name actually has nothing to do with the names of the band members, but comes from a 1965 French children's book called Belle et Sébastien.

The band members are: Stuart Murdoch (lead singer, songwriter), Stevie Jackson (lead guitarist, singer), Chris Geddes (keyboardist), Richard Colburn (drummer), Sarah Martin (violinist, vocalist), Mick Cooke (mainly trumpet player) and Bobby Kildea (bassist, guitarist). Former members include cellist/vocalist Isobel Campbell and vocalist/bassist Stuart David.

In 2009, Stuart Murdoch formed a side project called God Help the Girl, which released a single eponymous album. The songs on the album were of a similar style to Belle and Sebastian, but the lyrics focused more on the experiences of young women. Likewise, women sung most of the songs (though a fair number of normal Belle and Sebastian songs also have women singers). At some point, Murdoch though about using the songs for a film musical, but had no way of putting this into action.

At least until Kickstarter came around, which let Murdoch direct and produce God Help the Girl in 2014.

  • Tigermilk (1996)
  • If You're Feeling Sinister (1996)
  • The Boy With the Arab Strap (1998)
  • Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (2000)
  • Storytelling (2002)
  • Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
  • The Life Pursuit (2006)
  • Write About Love (2010)
  • Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance (2015)

Belle and Sebastian provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Anti-Love Song: "You Don't Send Me," which also counts as Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Awful British Sex Comedy: The video for "Step Into My Office, Baby" is a parody of these movies.
  • Book Ends: The album Tigermilk begins with the song "The State I Am In," which mentions a book by the same name. The last song, "Mary Jo," contains the line "Mary Jo, you're looking thin, you're reading the book, 'The State I'm In,' but oh, it doesn't help at all."
  • Camp Straight: Stuart Murdoch may not be overtly camp, but his clean-cut appearance, slight lisp, and occasional queer references in his lyrics have raised suspicions that he may be gay. But he says that he's "straight enough to bore himself."
  • Citizenship Marriage: "The State I Am In":
    I got married in a rush
    To save a kid from being deported
    Now she's in love
  • Hello, Sailor!: "The State I Am In" mentions it:
    My brother had confessed he was gay
    It took the heat off me for a while
    He stood up with a sailor friend
    Made it known upon my sisters wedding day
  • Hidden Track: "Songs For Children" goes unlisted on on 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light, where it appears on the same track as "Put the Book Back on the Shelf" ' - unlike the majority of songs hidden at the end of an album, there's only a few seconds pause after the last listed song.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: "Seeing Other People," again.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: "Jonathan David."
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Gentle, uptempo melodies combined with cynical, angry, or mournful lyrics are frequent in their songs.
  • One-Woman Song: "Mary Jo."
  • Shout-Out: The chorus of "I'm A Cuckoo" mentions Thin Lizzy... Which is appropriate because the song's shuffling rhythm and duel lead guitars make it sound like an homage to Thin Lizzy's signature style.
    • "I Love My Car" includes a nod to all of the main members of The Beach Boys, albeit with a very gentle Take That! also included:
      I love my Carl
      I love my Brian, my Dennis, and my Al
      I could even find it in my head to love Mike Love
    • The title of The Boy With The Arab Strap was inspired by fellow Scottish band Arab Strap... which caused some embarrassment, as Stuart would later admit that he "didn't know an Arab strap is a cock ring."
  • Reclusive Artist: The band tried to invoke this trope in the early days, only performing gigs sporadically and usually getting friends to pose for record sleeves and publicity shots. As the group started getting more well-known around 2000, these practises were eventually fazed out.
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Show up in "She's Losing It".
  • Something Completely Different: Much of Tigermilk is in the indie/chamber pop style. "Electronic Renaissance", however, is full-blown Synth-Pop.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Stuart Murdoch is considered the lead vocalist, but Stevie Jackson has also gotten frequent vocal/songwriting showcases. Also, Sarah Martin, Isobel Campbell, and Stuart David have all taken lead vocals more than once each.
  • Something Else Also Rises: The music video for "Step Into My Office, Baby" contains various visual metaphors for sex.
  • War Is Hell: Seems to be a theme in "I Fought In A War."