Hearing Tigermilk again, after a protracted lay-off from all things Belle & Sebastian, takes me hurtling back to the mid-90s, staying up late to listen to Mark & Lard's outstanding evening show for Radio 1, & taping the band's embryonic "live in the studio" sessions while I desperately tried to get my hands on a copy of the LP. Sadly, with only a thousand pressed, that never came to pass, & I had to rely on a ropey cassette dub for several years, 'til the band finally relented & let Jeepster reissue it (in 1999). 15 years since it's original release, Tigermilk still sounds like a cheeky crossbreed of Forever Changes, Bryter Later, The Strange Idols Pattern, & The Television Personalities' And Don't The Kids Just Love It... perfect, virtually.
As much as I adore the first half dozen Belle & Sebastian albums (including their oft maligned Storytelling soundtrack), & the accompanying brace of stand-alone singles, I honestly don't think they'll ever better Tigermilk. It's not just the remarkable quality, & broad scope, of it's 10 striking songs (can you imagine them recording something equivalent to "Electronic Renaissance" now, for instance?), but the circumstances surrounding it's release. Originally a privately pressed student project, it's popularity grew slowly & organically, by word of mouth rather than press hype, & most of us had fallen in love with these songs l-o-n-g before we knew what the band looked like (!) or had the opportunity to see them perform live. It's also significantly tougher - both musically & lyrically - than the band's subsequent work, & there's a palpable desperation, & a barely concealed anger, simmering just beneath the surface. Like The Smiths' early records, once heard Tigermilk is never forgotten. And, like The Smiths, songs such as "The State I Am In" can still induce an awed silence, just like "Reel Around The Fountain" or "Asleep".
Somebody else on here cites Tigermilk as "the best debut album by a Scottish band ever" &, though somehow that seems patently ludicrous, I can't think of a better one, can you?