Friday, 28 November 2008

Belle and Sebastian - The BBC Sessions

Belle and Sebastian are my favourite band. They have sound tracked the last few years, with each album that I have acquired being more worrisome than the previous, as I come dangerously close to exhausting my ability to find new material of theirs to covet and cherish. It was earlier this year that I finally took the plunge and picked up the maligned Storytelling and the gorgeous Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant – both these albums split opinion of the band down the middle like a lightning strike.

So, hearing that they have a new album on the way, albeit seemingly a soundtrack to a film, I knew I was in safe hands – then they announced the grandest prize off all for a fan, a collection of rare recordings of the band during their heyday.

And this collection is no mean collection. Unlike the recent Smiths best-of that should be revered for being able to make a great singles band such as the Smiths and turning them into a soulless cash in best-of collection. This album is a 2 CD set of BBC recordings from sessions taken during the era of the band that is their ethereal peak, 1996 to 2001. Here there are versions of their grandest songs, such as Dylan in the Movies and a rather early version of Lazy Line Painter Jane.

The version of I Could Be Dreaming is pure poptastic genius – a perfect version of one of the bands greatest songs. Also, The Stars of Track and Field is one of the darkest songs the band have written, and is deeper, echoing here like never before, a shine of dark spreading over the production.

The first CD is a good addition to the back catalogue, even if it is essentially a tapered selection, obviously limited by what the band recorded. The second CD is a live concert from Belfast, which has a few rather interesting songs, such as fan-sang covers of I’m Waiting for the Man and The Boys Are Back In Town, proving that the band have a little more to their live performances rather than just playing the album tracks live.

The problem is that we already have extensive collections of live version of songs from the band – Push Barman to Open Old Wounds is the greatest collection of B-Sides and non-album tracks ever assembled and the live version of If You’re Feeling Sinister is a pinnacle for the band. BBC Sessions is essential, and you really should get it, but there is so much more to this band, so much more to discover. The only thing that I can think of that is more exciting than listening to this album and this band over and over again is the feeling that you have not even discovered them yet – truly one of the greatest Scottish bands of all time.