Belle And Sebastian • The BBC Sessions

December 15, 2008

Michaelangelo Matos • A.V Club 

belle1The big draw of Belle And Sebastian’s double CD The BBC Sessions—the first disc collects three full sessions of four or five songs, recorded between 1996 and 2001 for the BBC, plus a song from an unfinished session; the second disc features a full concert recorded in Belfast—is that one of the segments, recorded for John Peel in May 2001, consists entirely of previously unreleased songs. For any band with as rabid and opinionated a fan base as Belle And Sebastian’s, this is a big deal. Though diehards mostly dislike the group’s work from this period (2000’s Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant is generally considered the band’s nadir), these songs fit in well with the more obviously beloved stuff surrounding them. “The Magic Of A Kind Word” is reminiscent of buoyant British Invasion-era pop, while “(My Girl’s Got) Miraculous Technique” evokes a frazzled, rainy-day-shimmering version. That kind of faded luster is what Belle And Sebastian do better than anything, of course, and the rest of The BBC Sessions has it in sharper detail than some of the band’s recorded work. Diehards won’t be getting rid of their copies of If You’re Feeling Sinister or The Boy With The Arab Strap anytime soon, but often these alternate versions are tighter and zippier than the originals, which make them a good introduction for new fans as well as welcome contrasts for long-timers.


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