4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"I'm brutal, honest and afraid of you".,
By A Customer
This review is from: Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant [VINYL] (Vinyl)
The sleeve notes to this album highlight the youthful ideals of Glasgow hipsters being put to the test "when they come up against the commercial world and the awakening activity of everyday life". The conflict between ideals and reality, a recurrent theme in earlier Belle and Sebastian releases, is central to "Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant." In 'Women's Realm', an artfully arranged Murdoch and Campbell duet, Murdoch sings "It would take a left wing Robin Hood to pay for school/Your Dad's a boozer and you keep him alive." The legendary figure is given a political label and put in a context of modern day poverty and alcoholism far from the romance of Nottingham Forest. And of course, no such hero really exists. In 'Beyond The Sunrise', a slow-paced and almost Biblical Jackson and Campbell duet, the character Joseph's dreams are broken, and he dismisses an invitation to taste hope in a temptress's skin and "faith with the dawn" as a liquor-induced dream. The song, on the first few listens, sounds out of place, gruff and laborious, and it takes several listens to appreciate its originality and effectiveness at evoking a hazy, archaic atmosphere. The singer in 'Don't Leave The Light On Baby' is stuck in a failing relationship, resigned to bloody stupid days and conceding that it's "best to go down without a fight" He is overawed when a friend comes back from abroad rich. Such opportunities do not seem to be open to him. And yet he can find simple pleasure in watching a sunset. Most poignantly, Murdoch's character in the opening track 'I Fought In A War' thinks of a love back home while he has to endure "a corpse that just fell into me, with the bullets flying round". He imagines her "making shells back home for a steady man to wear/Round his neck", a devastating image - while seashells may make a pretty necklace, the song's context makes it impossible to avoid the sense of "shells" as explosive shells, and a feeling that his contemplation of his lover with another man is as destructive for the narrator as the battle he is in the middle of. 'The Chalet Lines', following the pop brilliance of 'The Wrong Girl' (and even this uplifting song is about the singer not finding his darling except in the back of his mind, and indeed having the wrong dream on his mind), is stark and disturbing. With minimal musical accompaniment, Murdoch sings from the point of view of a rape victim. The fact that lines such as "I missed my time, I don't think I could stand/To take the test" are sung by a man, even a man with such a gentle voice, makes them all the more terrifying. Whether or not he succeeds in expressing the thoughts of a rape victim can only be known by those who have suffered that atrocity, but the is as sensitive and understatedly tragic as anything Belle and Sebastian have done before: "Her face was just a smear on the pane". Much of the album is melancholic in tone, especially the whimsical 'Waiting For The Moon To Rise', Sarah Martin's first song for the band. However, there is also a tone of suppressed aggression. Murdoch proclaims himself a fraud in 'The Model' and positively wants to cause offence in the absolutely outstanding closing track, 'There's Too Much Love'. He imagines coming to blows and ending face down on the ground. It also takes a lot of boldness to begin a song "I don't care whether you hear this", as he does 'Women's Realm'. However, he also insists on his honesty in expressing his emotions, and the album's closing lines "I'm brutal, honest and afraid of you" conclude it magnificently. The upbeat orchestrial finale detracts from the direct confessional nature of 'There's Too Much Love', and indeed the whole album.
It's not perfect. 'Nice Day For A Sulk' is too slight, and the lyrics to 'Family Tree' too sixth-form, but these are still perfectly listenable. In general, the songs are varied, yet unified, and incredibly addictive. Musically and lyrically, Belle and Sebastian are the most accomplished band around.