Belle And Sebastian includes: Stevie Thomas Jackson (vocals, guitar); Christopher Thomas Geddes (piano); Richard (drums); Isobel, Sarah Martin, Stuart David, Stuart Murdoch.
There's nobody named Belle or Sebastian in this Scottish septet, but that's just part of the self-effacing mythology with which the band has surrounded itself. Their low profile in the media and even on their own albums (no personnel or songwriting credits) is in keeping with the shy-boy aesthetic promulgated on this, their debut album. While the influence of lovable British wimps like Nick Drake, The Smiths and Al Stewart (!) and fellow Scot Donovan can be heard throughout, the band has an identity and highly developed sense of songcraft all its own.
Led by Stuart Murdoch, Belle and Sebastian offer up a largely acoustic folk-pop sound with deep roots in the '60s. Their guitar-and-piano arrangements are often filled out by luxurious trumpets and strings, but the clever, sardonic lyrics keep things from ever getting too mushy. The bright, irresistible pop melodies stand in sharp contrast to decidedly downbeat lyrics that recall Morrissey at his sharpest. Timeless, gorgeous and just cool enough to avoid a mainstream breakthrough.
Rolling Stone (5/13/99, pp.64-65) - Included in Rolling Stone's "Essential Recordings of the 90's."
Rolling Stone (7/10-24/97, p.124) - 4.5 (out of 5) - "...it's tough to find fault with a band that opts for shy resolution over self-promotion and, in so doing, reaches peaks of effortless pastoral grandeur."
Spin (1/98, p.87) - Ranked #18 on Spin's list of the "Top 20 Albums Of The Year."
Spin (10/97, p.141) - 8 (out of 10) - "...magnificently layered arrangements blend folk-rock (minus the preciousness) with a near-pure pop sense that could seduce even the most jaded audiophile. It's death-by-comfy-chair..."
Entertainment Weekly (7/11/97, pp.68-69) - "This Glaswegian septet's 10 doleful musings set to dainty pop melodies are so potent they could make Morrissey cry....Belle and Sebastian create an album's worth of such songs on their debut." - Rating: A
Q (1/98, p.111) - Included in Q Magazine's "50 Best Albums of 1997."
Option (7-8/97, p.92) - "...IF YOU'RE FEELING SINISTER is filled with sharply drawn moments...as well as melodies that stick in your head....This is the best selection of sad pop to come out in a long, long time."
Village Voice (2/24/98) - Ranked #8 in the Village Voice's 1997 Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.
Mojo (Publisher) (p.62) - Ranked #38 in Mojo's "100 Modern Classics" -- "Perfect, precise and -- considering the subject matter -- abnormally mature."