Saturday, August 20, 2011

Belle and Sebastian At The Beeb

Let me just state for the record right off the bat, that it's about time. 12 years in the making, Belle and Sebastian's latest release, The BBC Sessions collects their radio sessions on the famed British radio network from the years 1996-2001. For anyone who lives outside of the UK and never got to hear these sessions when they were originally broadcast, the release of this record is so long overdue that it's actual release is a joyous occasion.

Often considered one of the most important (if not most important) indie pop bands of the last 15-20 years, Belle and Sebastian have had a long illustrious career filled with seminal albums and singles and an eccentric attitude to match. It's made them fun to follow and to listen to and listening to the tracks that make up BBC Sessions only reaffirms the band's importance, attitude, and just how great of a band they are. Consisting of their singles, tracks from their albums, and a few surprises, BBC Sessions is recorded in an unadorned style that while not quite as orchestrated as the original versions show B&S to be an amazingly tight band that are so much more then the twee image that they are often given.

Within the singles, tracks, and surprises lies B&S's very first session on the Mark Radcliffe show and the inclusion of three tracks from their legendary album If You're Feeling Sinister. "Like Dylan In the Movies," "Judy and the Dream of Horses," "Stars of Track and Field," all make appearances before the album actually came out and subtly hinted at just how good this record actually would be. Perhaps of even more importance is the super duper rare John Peel session in 2001 which not only marked one of the last appearances of twee goddess Isobel Campbell but several songs that have never been released in studio form. This session is worth the price of the disc alone because a) Isobel is on it 2) it's John Peel doing what he does bell and 3) it's B&S at their intimate best. The super-sunny, "The Magic of a Kind Word," and the sort of Sarah records-like tune that is, "(My Girl's Got) Miraculous Technique," are so brilliant that they sum up everything B&S are about in the span of seven minutes. It's truly magical stuff that will tug at your heart strings and win you over with a giant pat on the back.

It may have taken seven or so years to actually see The BBC Sessions released but it was worth it. The album is available as a standard single disc set and a deluxe double disc set for the super obsessed Belle and Sebastian fans. The deluxe set includes a live concert from Belfast in 2001 that sums the first disc up but throws it into a live setting and brings a rowdy crowd along for the ride. While the second disc isn't essential for anyone except B&S geeks, the first disc (or standard version) is incredibly essential and stands a supplement to how important Belle and Sebastian have become in the world of indie pop.

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