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Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister (33 1/3) Paperback – 18 Nov 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 118 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum (18 Nov. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826428185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826428189
  • Product Dimensions: 12.3 x 0.8 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Plagenhoef knows his subject matter inside and out and has gone the extra mile to research and contextualize the work- a necessary task, since the band refused to be interviewed for the's nice to see a modern classic get some due recognition."" --Under the Radar Magazine

About the Author

Scott Plagenhoef is Managing Editor for Pitchfork Media, the world's most popular and influential alternative music website.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Lane on 20 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is largely not about 'If You're Feeling Sinister': it's more a critical account of the progression of music, the music industry and fandom since 1985, rather tenuously linked to the history of Belle and Sebastian.

It suffers from a lack of original (or even relevant) material - while the Anglo-centred 'Cool Britannia' movement is discussed, the 1990s Glasgow scene isn't - suggesting that Plagenhoef has cynically used IYFS as a platform to peddle his own memoirs. His frequent attacks on the internet - on grounds that it makes it too easy for fans to research artists - are as baffling as they are maniacal. The relevance to Sinister, apparently, is that B&S were at one time 'mysterious'.

In short, Plagenhoef material familiar to anyone who has read fansite bios with diatribes familiar to anyone who has read fansite message boards: you don't get much new for your £7.

But at least you'll be avoiding that terrible internet and undertaking financial loss in order to research the band. How kind of Plagenhoef to provide us with the opportunity to prove our mettle as fans! The term 'cashing in' springs to mind.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Nash on 26 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is the first book in the 33 1/3 series I have ever read, the series looked interesting and I planed to buy more books in the series. I initially opted to buy the book about If you're feeling sinister, the second album by one of my favourite bands ever, Belle and Sebastian. I was expecting the book to focus on the recording of the album or at least what listeners thought about the album, after all there was 105 pages in the book in which to do so. The book was well written, the author Scott Plagenhoef knew his subject well discussing key points in the band's history and making a lot of comparisions to their contemporaries and to similar music that had possibly influenced the band including how the band came together, a detailed section on the legendary debut album Tigermilk, great quotes from vintage interviews, the Pete Waterman/Brits winning fiasco, the departure of band members Stuart David and Isobel Campbell and even unearthing the names of some unreleased gems scheduled for both Tigermilk and Sinister (worth the cover price alone for this information for the hardcore fan), but the one thing the book lacked was information about the title i.e. If you're feeling sinister, it took approximately 90 pages before the album was mentioned in any depth and was glossed over in less than 5 pages. At the end Plagenhoef aptly noted that Belle and Sebastian maybe one of the last great bands to have been slowly discovered in the old fashioned way with the internet age making the whole process much easier. It was a good read but probably for hardcore fans only.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Somewhat Entertaining if completely Off Topic 33/13 15 April 2008
By Brandon Whitfeld - Published on
Format: Paperback
The fantastic 33 1/3 series takes genuine risks in giving their cherry-picked writers stylistic free reign (Joe Pernice's "Meat is Murder" was gentle coming-of-age fiction, after all) but there's something a little bit pretentious and indulgent about simply just pretending to examine a 1996 indie classic and seemingly having no idea that your focus has run absurdly rampant and that you've used the word "titular" waaay too many times to keep me in my comfort zone.

I'm not sure why I'm surprised. Author Scott Plagenhoef is a Pitchfork editor after all, and the book's self-important drone, relentless pursuit of precious Glaswegian novelty and esoterica, and surprisingly dense prose is right out of that hipster haven's hallowed halls. The book, rather than settling for a breezy deconstruction of a rather remarkable record, overdoes itself and becomes something of a lengthy TREATISE on THE CREATION OF BELLE AND SEBASTIAN and the HISTORY OF TWEE IN THE MODERN WORLD and THE RIGHTFUL PLACE OF INDIE MUSIC IN THE POP CULTURAL LANDSCAPE.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy parts of Plagenhoef's digressions into C86 and Edwyn Collins and Morrissey's asexuality and the rise of the pop group Bis, Britpop's rise and fall, Damon Albarn's silly drunken interviews, Damien Hirst, Oasis vs. Blur, but it would have been real nice to have read A LITTLE SOMETHING ABOUT "IF YOU'RE FEELING SINISTER", dude!

Plagenhoef has his moments. Describing Stuart Murdoch's battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and his coming out of it as if out of a dream, with his songs and his band fully formed, explains so much about the soft, seductive beauty of the band and its ability to create its own starry universe; it's also an interesting theory about the formation about art in general, beauty coming from sickness, melody from mummified mayhem, but Plagenhoef doesn't go there. He's a writer excited about his first book and he wants to show off his (admittedly vast) knowledge of the indie music landscape and usage of the word "titular". Sorry to bring it up again, but c'mon.

While those searching for a thoughtful and verbose essay on rock music might be tickled, the book isn't likely to satisfy Belle and Sebastian fans; Plagenhoef, despite the book's title, seems to want to focus most of his energies on the recording of the band's first album, "Tigermilk" (with a lot of focus oddly going to "Fold Your Hands" as well) and ultimately doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know. In fact, I've already read a lot of these opinions on Pitchfork, and despite a well-received biography of the band already having been published, a Magnet Magazine interview about Belle and Sebastian some years back was way more in-depth, focused, and interesting than anything offered here.

There are those 33 1/3 and Pitchfork fans who will praise Plagenhoef's talent for pop cultural nostalgia and his wide scope. However, I think a great 33 1/3 book should be able to talk about the formation of the band, its place in the world, as well as give the reader a detailed summation of the individual album under review. I found this to be the case with the impressive "Doolittle" (WHY this album rules the Pixies' canon) as well as Neutral Milk's "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" (an unbelievable dissection of the step-by-step creation of an insane indie classic) and I had hoped for more with one of my favorite albums and bands of all time.

Scott Plagenhoef has clear passion and solid merit as a rock journalist, but in my eyes, he didn't succeed with his assignment.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Pretentious disaster 4 Dec. 2008
By Wedgwood Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is an absolute disaster, a self-important pile of crap that represents everything wrong with Pitchfork and everything wrong with writing about music.

It wasn't really even about the (wonderful, wonderful) album, more about the writer showing off his knowledge of indie pop history and his cred (based on liking the "right" bands) in a meandering mess that occasionally discussed the songs and the band. It's amazing that he could take something so beloved and honest, claim to relate deeply with that something, and then write about it in such a selfish, pretentious, and awful way. I actually wanted to punch the writer.

The only saving grace of the book was the one paragraph where he admitted that Just a Modern Rock Story is an infinitely more worthwhile read. At least he got that part right.

I've been interested in the 33 1/3 series for a while, but this is the first one that I've read. I'm turned off now.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Belle and Sebastian and the Internet 20 Dec. 2008
By Maggie - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is as much about the internet and what it means to be a music fan as it is about Belle and Sebastian. And I don't consider that a bad thing, really. I disagree with a lot of what Scott Plagenhoef has to say, but he says it well and with passion. Plagenhoef is not so much concerned with If You're Feeling Sinister as he is with the entire early part of Belle &Sebastian's career and how the band related (or deliberately didn't) relate to their fans, and how fans themselves experienced that once secretive band.

Where I believe the book runs aground a bit is when Plagenhoef turns it into an elegy for a "better" time when people really "listened" to music, as opposed to now when most people just "hear" it as background noise on their mp3 players. I find this kind of nostalgia for a past time a little suspect, and honestly, it was only with the advent of the internet and being able to listen to radio stations like WFMU from thousands of miles away that I began to be adventurous with music. But even though I disagree with many of his conclusions, it was still a very interesting read and it got me thinking about what we've gained and lost in the past decade.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's Not About "If You're Feeling Sinister" 25 Sept. 2012
By Brian Egras - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I agree wholeheartedly with the well-written and accurate review by Brandon Whitfeld here on Amazon. This book is hardly about the album in the title. More is said about what it was like to be a part of the Belle and Sebastian online fan club in the late 90's than about the creation and meaning of "If You're Feeling Sinister". If they just changed the title of this book to "Tigermilk", I might give it another star or two in this review since MUCH more is talked about that record.

This book IS NOT about "If You're Feeling Sinister". This book IS about:
1. "Tigermilk"
2. Stuart Murdough and his illness
3. The frustration of the press with Belle and Sebastian's decision not to provide interviews or photos.
4. Indie Rock, and Twee in particular
5. How a lot of other music in the late 1990's was meatheaded and conspired against people who considered themselves very sensitive.
6. The Belle And Sebastian fans
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
You Kids Get Off My Lawn! 31 Jan. 2013
By John Wraith - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book has some interesting info about Belle & Sebastian. Perplexingly, that info's mostly about Tigermilk, with very little analysis of the actual songs on If You're Feeling Sinister, although the 5 pages or so of analysis that ends the book is actually quite astute and well-rendered. But too often this book deteriorates into a cranky screed about these kids today and the music they listen to on their mp3 players -- and they call THAT music?! Here's Plagenhoef on how quickly "kids" can download and digest music without a financial commitment: "Turnover is more important than digestion and cognition to many young fans, who seemingly collect mp3s like stamps or baseball cards." Gee, that sounds a lot like record-collecting to me, and it sounds precisely like what fans have been doing for almost a hundred years, except now it's easier and doesn't make people waste small fortunes. Also bear in mind that this (entirely unsupported) conclusion comes from a dude who's in his late 30s and has presumably been record-collecting for several decades.

Another sky-is-falling claim that Plagenhoef makes about today's music scene involves blogs: "sensationalism and breathlessness . . . passes for music writing." Yet the author spends many pages discussing the very same problem's existence in the 80s and 90s, so I'm not sure he has a salient point on this. And coming from an associate editor at Pitchfork, it's an odd criticism indeed. I hope I don't seem to be nit-picking a few minor points here, because the supposed death of close-listening at the hands of ADD-addled mp3 downloaders and his critique of the next-big-thing blogs make up two of the book's main claims.

Beyond that, the prose itself is a bit tangled, in the form of cluttered syntax. The average sentence in this book is about 7-12 lines long and consists of 3 clauses crammed together. It's not terribly readable, in other words. And in several cases his wording is imprecise; for example, he labels the Arcade Fire "platitude-shouting," but I think "slogan-shouting" was what he was going for, as I personally can't think of any platitudes in any Arcade Fire songs.
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