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Belle & Sebastian
The BBC Sessions
by: Daniel Johnson

There's a lot of music at KUCI. Here's a selection that you may have missed from 2008 that is certainly still worth checking out...

Belle & Sebastian recently released a hodgepodge of recordings from the mid 1990s through the early 2000s entitled “The BBC Sessions.” The compilation features previously unreleased versions of Belle & Sebastian classics as well as less notable songs from BBC shows hosted by Mark Radcliffe, Steve Lamacq and John Peel. Most tracks were recorded when the group was in its early stages, and the songs are arranged chronologically (Radcliffe before Lamacq before Peel) showcasing the band's development from their twee-pop beginnings to their current, more stylized sound.

The album starts with “The State I Am In,” the same track that opened the group's debut album, “Tigermilk.” This version sounds gruffer and less polished than anything that would make it onto a standard Belle & Sebastian LP. On this track, lead singer Stuart Mudroch's vocals do not fully flow with the music they accompany, though the same mellow tone of the original song is retained. In fact, coupled with the second song on the album, “Like Dylan in the Movies” the two tracks concoct something of an aural sleeping pill for the listener. However, if the album's opening tracks are sleeping medication, then the three tracks that follow are the unavoidable reveille of an alarm clock on a sunny Sunday morning. While they may appear a bit annoying at first, their poppy disposition provides the energy and encouragement to get up and start the day.

Belle & Sebastian hit a brick wall as they plunge into “Seymour Stein.” This first song denoting the change of host from Radcliffe to Lamacq exhibits a melancholy tone, however they quickly bounce back with the four following songs including what may be the release's hidden gem "Lazy Jane" (an alternative take on the group's previously released "Lazy Line Painter Jane").

The later material finds the band being less adventurous, demonstrating a more narrow spectrum of sound in pace and mood. Still, there is one standout song near the album's end entitled "Nothing in the Silence". Staying true to its name, it is one of the quieter songs, utilizing a contrasting tone better than any other track. This is done by pairing Stuart Murdoch's vocals with those of female vocalist Isobel Campbell. This is one of the last examples of collaboration between the two, as Campbell has since left the group to pursue other musical ventures.

With no recent material added by Belle & Sebastian, “The BBC Sessions” may be less appealing to new listeners and only essential for devoted fans and completists. That said, the album is successful in showing new shades to old songs.

(This album also includes a DVD release of a Belle & Sebastian show in Belfast from their 2001 tour.)


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