on 1 December 1999
far from being a first album which is undeveloped, this is probably the best of the bunch, almost every song is wonderful, a gem in it's own right. The only possible exception is the weird 'Electronic Rennaicence' which is excusable as it is taking the mick out of the disco culture. Some of the solos and songs just blow me away, pure melodic genius. Of all the albums, i'd also say this was the easiest to get into, and it is gently clever from the first word to the last chord. Highly reccomended.
on 28 May 2000
The first three tracks on Tigermilk are perhaps the most beautiful opening to any debut album. Combining acerbic lyrics and sweet, catchy melodies, this is an album without a single weak track which it's possible to listen to again and again. It's a mystery why the haven't had more chart success: despite it's depth, it's nonetheless an instantly accessible recording. I defy anyone to dislike an album which includes the line "My brother had confessed he was gay, it took the heat off me for a while". Buy it NOW. PS stand out tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 (and the rest!)
on 24 June 2015
Tigermilk was released in 1996 in about the most low-key way possible - 1000 copies on the record label of a local college attended by the group's drummer Richard Colburn. Few heard it then but after the popularity generated by their next two albums, it was given a wider release in 1999. From the gentle opener The State That I Am In to the woodwind-driven closer Mary Jo, it's still one of B&S' greatest LPs. The lyrics are all grounded in a discernible reality and with songs such as Expectations, which perfectly sums up the experience of being bullied in high school, it speaks perfectly to the kind of 'outsiders' (for want of a better word) who were initially attracted to the band. And as Belle & Sebastian arrived with their aesthetic fully formed, Tigermilk is as good a place as any to start exploring their now quite large discography.
on 7 May 2007
This really is the last word in mid-nineties Scottish Indie, and perhaps the most brilliant showcase for Stuart Murdoch's endearing vocals. From the first line of 'The State That I Am In', originality flows forth at a rate of knots.
'The State That I Am In' is an almost perfect lesson in Belle and Sebastian approach: mixing a conversational tone with snippets of real-life subject matter, mixed with reminiscence, wistful melancholia, all accompanied by soft acoustic and dreamy electric guitars that owe more than a little to other Scottish Indie stalwarts such as The Pastels and The Shop Assistants. The result is spectacular, a stark contrast against the repugnant excess and self-obsession of the Britpop era.
The lyrics are very impressive too. "Oh love of mine, would you condescend to help me, because I'm stupid and blind", implores Murdoch, then going on to proclaim that "Desperation is the devil's work". Despite being largely unappreciated en masse, Belle and Sebastian are the pleasant secret of many an Indie fan, presumably because there is a distinct lack of any contrivance or 'rock star' posturing, just a desire to make affecting music, as is so usually the case with Scottish Indie music. This is the kind of technique which many an American 'alternative' band tries to ape, usually unsuccessfully.
'Expectations' continues on in the same impressive way, accompanied by upbeat, stripped-down acoustic guitar, boasting some of the quirkiest, most creative lyrics which I have personally ever heard committed to record, such as: "Making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay". Here, Belle and Sebastian retain an almost perfect balance of humour and 'twee'.
"She's losing it" also embraces the grand old tradition of telling a story through song, in a similar way to The Smiths, as Stuart Murdoch proves his lyrical accomplishment with lines like: "Inch for inch, pound for pound, who needs boys when there's Lisa around?" Thus turning otherwise mundane subject matter into endearing, nostalgia-tinged, 'days-gone-by' innocence, all set against a backdrop of Velvets-esque electric guitars, folky acoustic guitars and trumpets. The overall sound is frighteningly self-assured-sounding, especially for a debut release.
'You're Just A Baby' continues on in the same kind of charming, folky style that much of the album adopts, plus added 'twee' handclaps, which surprisingly, aren't in the slightest way nauseating, whilst 'Electronic Renaissance' is the only real departure from typical B&S style on the album, a homage to mid 80's Indie-disco electro pop. Even this is pulled off superbly, sounding sweetly reminiscent rather than just indulgently retrogressive.
Piano-led 'We Rule The School' is the most obvious 'ballad' on the album, being both strings-accompanied and telling an almost 'olden days' kind of story, almost like something one might expect to hear in a Hovis advert, if it weren't for the mention of 'California' and 'New York'. Flutes appear here, too, complimenting the song perfectly, whilst Murdoch's vocals sound as crisp as ever.
The songs listed above are, to my ears, the obvious stand-out songs on this album, whilst song titles such as 'I don't Love Anyone' suggest a maturity far beyond the youth of Belle and Sebastian at that time. All the other songs are tactile, warm and sincere, always whilst being musically adventurous enough to make this Belle And Sebastian's landmark recording. 'Mary-Jo' also contains the same kind of celtic leanings which 'Sons And Daughters' would also explore some ten years later.
The absolute best thing about this album is, as I have already hinted, it's complete lack of any pretension or falsity. It sounds sweet, pretty, often delicate, yet at other times strong and always self-assured. Lack of falsity is fast becoming a trademark of Scottish Indie bands who have perhaps become accustomed to being ignored by the vast majority of British record labels who seem far more interested in trendy camdenites and scenesters. As a result, with bands like Belle and Sebastian, the focus really is on the music and lyrics, rather than who is wearing this scarf or that T-shirt. Every corporate or fashion-conscious band in the UK could graciously learn from this lot. As long as this Scottish tradition of artistic integrity and creativity continues, Scotland will hopefully continue to produce admirable Indie bands just as good as this one.
on 11 September 2010
The Scottish ensemble Belle And Sebastian, headed by singer Stuart Murdoch, are, along with Stereolab, one of the more interesting of the acts to have emerged out of Britain at the end of the century. Their debut 'Tigermilk'(1996), essentially puts a new and refreshing, but understated spin on 1960s folk with the added element of an intense pathos and poetic, tender but catchy melodies and eclectic experimentation.
'The State I Am In' sounds like a take on one of John Denver's melancholy wails. 'You're Just A Baby' has the staccato guitar, the youthful handclapping and romantic attitude of early Neil Diamond. 'I Don't Love Anyone' nods towards Dylan-esque strummed guitar and bluesy vocals, whilst 'She's Losing It' hints at the ethereal, swinging harmonies of the 'barbershop quartets' and the breezy ballads of country & western.
The band abandons that simple format and ventures into more adventurous territory with a handful of songs. 'I Could Be Dreaming', for example, has the brio, the guitar reverb and the gospel organ of garage-rock, but the vocal harmonies of the Everly Brothers. 'Expectations' vibrates at a thick, feverish tempo, while the trumpet intones a joyful fanfare.
'We Rule The School' has the plain, dreamy tone of a Donovan and the plaintive tone of a Jackson Browne, but sits on top of a classical piano and cello sonata, and even indulges in a flute and harpsichord minuet worthy of baroque concertos. 'Electronic Renaissance' employs a disco beat and distorted vocals akin to New Order.
The album represents the first of their opening three works that are all as close to being erudite masterpiece's as it's possible to be. Of the three, this, their debut, is arguably the best. It displays a kind of rural 'fairy tale' flair that is closer to Donovan than it is to Dylan.